Animal genomics center falls to leaner budgets

After 11 years of successfully building Iowa State's research capacity and scientific prestige in the field of genomics, the Center for Integrated Animal Genomics is ending its activities.

The center was one of the Presidential Initiatives established in 2002 under former president Gregory Geoffroy. Nearly 100 scientists from five colleges affiliated with the center worked on collaborative research projects to identify, map and understand genes of importance to both animal agriculture and human health. The center provided a successful seed grant program and numerous lectures by prominent national scientists.

The center's financial support primarily came from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station. It also received support from the offices of the president, provost and vice president for research and economic development, Office of Biotechnology and the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

In 2011, CALS dean Wendy Wintersteen informed center director and Distinguished Professor in animal science Max Rothschild that the college and Experiment Station no longer could support the center, following $12 million in state budget reductions over two fiscal years and the cumulative impact of multiple years of cuts that reduced Experiment Station funds by 25 percent.

Rothschild and the center's supervisory committee received permission to operate the center past 2011, using the last of its funds from the Experiment Station and the three colleges. In March, the center held its last annual symposium and, with no remaining funds, the decision was made to close the center. There are no staff positions lost because of this decision.

"The research made possible by the center's support and collaboration has been internationally recognized," Wintersteen said. "Affiliated faculty leveraged the center's support 17-to-1 in successfully competing for external grants. The center led campus-wide discussions that influenced the university's direction on the future of the biological sciences."

The successes of the center's faculty affiliates prove the value of collaboration, collegiality and communication, Rothschild said. "I'm especially proud that the center provided seed funding to both new and senior faculty as a springboard for exciting new research. It really helped ISU move forward in animal, microbial and comparative genomics," he said.