Michael D. Purugganan, Associate Director for the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Advocates for NYU 2031


Testimony of Michael Purugganan

Associate Director for the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology

Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics, Professor of Biology

New York University

Before the New York City Planning Commission

For the Public Hearing on the New York University Core Project

April 25, 2012


Chair and Members of the Planning Commission

I have lived in New York City nearly 10 years, and in the past 6 years have lived in Greenwich Village. I am a research scientist at NYU, a member of the faculty of Biology and the associate director for the NYU Center for Genomics and Systems Biology. I want to submit my testimony from my perspective as a working scientist.

The science we do at NYU truly changes the world and helps us face the global challenges we will all face in the coming years. I can tell you personally that scientists at the genome center on Waverly Place, as well as NYU scientists working in groups throughout the Village, work 24 hours, 7 days a week to not only try to unlock the secrets of the universe but to develop new ways to help solve the problems we face today.

Just in the genome and systems biology center, I know of a research group that has helped discover new genes that can be the targets of drugs to reverse cancer. My group is studying the effects of environmental stress on rice plants so we can help breed new varieties that can feed the hungry. A research scientist is studying the genomic basis for aging, while another is attempting to unlock the secrets of the malaria genome and works with scientists from around the world to rid the planet of this health scourge. There is a scientist who has figured out how to use plants to study stem cells, so we can figure out how they work and help develop new therapies for various major human diseases.

Last year, we moved to our new research facility in the Village. This was the first science building NYU had built on over 3 decades. Our work would not have been possible without the ability of NYU to provide high-quality research space to its faculty and scientists.

But even with this, our research space is still too small. Our facility, just over a year old, now houses more than 100 scientists and is now full. We still use overflow space in our old building because we do not have enough space in our new facility to place all the scientists we plan to have.

This is not unique to the genome center. The other laboratory facilities throughout NYU are also cramped and inadequate for us to face the many problems we will confront in the 21st century. There are crowded laboratories that I know of in which scientists work elbow-to-elbow in small quarters trying to carry out their research. We in the sciences desperately need more space and better space if we are to attract and retain the best scientific minds to work in New York City on the most pressing questions of our time.

Every morning, I enter the genome center here in New York City and I see wondrous things being done. I see work on cancer and aging, studies on helping find solutions to the world’s hunger problems, research on effects of climate change, work on possible environmental clean-up solutions and new drug discoveries. For the past 150 years, the New York City and the neighborhood of Greenwich Village has been known as a center for arts and music and literature. I am proud of this legacy, but I also want to see how we in downtown New York can serve as a global center in science, to be a place where people from around the world come to find answers to problems in health, hunger and the environment.

I want the Village to be known as the place where there we do world-class science that will change the world for the better. We need the space to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Michael D. Purugganan
Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics