In the late 1940s, a medical doctor and scientist used cell cultures to help bring the Salk polio vaccine to the public. Impressed with his work, business leaders in the Greater Philadelphia region enabled him to establish a basic research facility in 1953. The man was Lewis Coriell. The facility is the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, which today is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit biomedical research organization dedicated to understanding human genetic diseases and providing high-quality genetic resources.
Coriell occupies a new five-story laboratory facility on the campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia and Coriell serves the scientific community by maintaining a repository of the world's largest collection of human cells for research. These cells have facilitated the identification of the genes associated with Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Down's syndrome, and many other medical conditions.
One of the newest Coriell endeavors is the Delaware Valley Personalized Medicine Project. "The goal is to see information obtained from the human genome project [that will] start to influence clinical medical practice," says Michael Christman, president and CEO of Coriell. "We want to build a bridge from information that we now have about genomics from scientific research, and have that information actually change medical decision-making by doctors."
Coriell has established a multimillion-dollar genotyping facility for the Delaware Valley Personalized Medicine Project. "It's one of the larger such facilities in the country, and it's available on a fee-for-service basis to outside users," Christman says. Customers include pharmaceutical companies and private organizations such as the High Q Foundation, a New York-based philanthropic foundation that supports numerous projects related to Huntington disease.
"Coriell is unique in the United States for its ability to receive, prepare, store, and manage resources for the benefit of the research community," says Robi Blumenstein, president of the High Q Foundation. "We're very fortunate that Coriell exists."
Christman joined Coriell in June 2007, relocating from Boston, where he was chair of the Department of Genetics and Genomics at Boston University. "I love the Greater Philadelphia area," he says. "There's a sense of camaraderie in this region. It's also home to the greatest number of pharmaceutical companies in the country, and the field of genomics is tied to their future."