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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 15, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 26
Gels to Custom DNA: JHU's Own Research Superstore

Core Store director Barbara Daily has seen sales soar from $60,000 in 1990 to $12.5 million last year. With 100,000 items, the facility services the entire university.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

When Johns Hopkins scientists need cell media, enzymes, a DNA sequence, large-scale genotype or just some dry ice, a time-honored source is the Genetic Resources Core Facility, the university's version of a Research Depot.

The Genetic Resources Core Facility is made up of the Core Store, DNA Analysis Facility, Cell Center, Fragment Analysis Facility and the new SNP Center. The nonprofit service center was founded in 1989 as a part of a program to enhance services for researchers within the Department of Genetics at the School of Medicine. Today, the facility still falls under the auspices of the Institute of Genetic Medicine but caters to hundreds of researchers based on the Homewood, East Baltimore, APL and Bayview campuses.

"What happened," said Barbara Daily, director of the Core Store, "is that researchers from other Johns Hopkins departments saw the value of being able to put their hands on a product really quickly, or a service very quickly, and at a more reasonable price. Consequently, we spread out and now service the entire university."

The Core Store is the largest of the GRCF divisions. The store sells nearly 100,000 different products from leading manufacturers such as American Life Science, Invitrogen, New England Biolabs, Qiagen and Sigma. Common items sold include cell media, enzymes, Taq DNA polymerase and DNA gels. The store also sells lab equipment valued under $2,500, including benchtop centrifuges and gel rigs.

Store products are available at a 15 percent discount, on average, compared with outside vendors' prices; shipping and handling are free. All goods are guaranteed to be delivered within 24 hours to the buyer's lab or office.

Daily said that when she joined the Core Store in 1990, the facility sold roughly $60,000 worth of goods annually. Last year, the store delivered $12.5 million worth of products.

Orders can be placed by phone, fax or online, or customers can simply stop by the store, located on the 10th floor of The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Blalock Building.

"The pure convenience of having the store here at Johns Hopkins is huge. Researchers don't have to plan ahead for their research needs," Daily said. "They know the products are always here at the Core, so if they need something last minute they can come in the store and get it. It's one-stop shopping. You can get products from four to five vendors in one shot, rather than dealing with them individually, which could be very time-consuming."

The GRCF's Cell Center mission is to provide expertise and service in all aspects of mammalian cell culture. Among its services, the Cell Center sells dry ice, stores cell samples, grows cell lines, transforms B-lymphocytes and performs mycoplasma testing, a procedure to detect the organisms that can attack a cell and infect an entire cell line.

The DNA Analysis Facility is the university's primary source for all DNA sequencing and synthesis needs. The facility can create DNA templates, genotype, offer plasmid preparation and synthetically create strands of DNA to the customer's specifications. The results of all sequencing can be posted online, so a researcher can gain access to their data even if they are abroad.

Julie Shotwell, service center project coordinator for the Genetic Resources Core Facility, said that the DNA Analysis Facility at Johns Hopkins is one of the most sophisticated services of its kind.

"One thing that our DNA Analysis Facility does that is a little different from other vendors is that our researchers get a fully furnished oligo with all of the corresponding paperwork," Shotwell said. "A lot of the other facilities out there may charge less per base, but you get a more crude product and you have to spend time trying to figure out the concentrations. We have it ready to go."

The Fragment Analysis Facility offers genomic DNA isolation from blood, buffy coats, cultured cells and buccal swabs. It creates for each customer a database where all the sample information is stored. The facility also offers polymorphism development and analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

For SNP analysis on a much larger scale, the SNP Center was founded last year. Located at the Bayview Medical Center, the SNP Center is a high through-put genotyping facility that features Illumina's BeadArray technology, a system that enables the analysis of thousands of genotypes using a relatively small quantity of DNA. The technology allows the center to supply whole genome linkage mapping panels, fine mapping panels or custom SNP panels.

Daily said that what researchers tell her they like most about using the Genetic Resources Core Facility are the price savings and the constant presence of knowledgeable staff. "As compared to trying to track someone down on the phone in California to get a product or even just a sample," she said, "for many of our customers, they can just walk down the hallway and talk to someone face to face. We like to think that we are very integral to the research projects that go on here. We're an asset, not just a supplier."


Genetic Resources Core Facility; 443-287-0524
All hours are Monday to Friday.

The Core Store
1017 Blalock, East Baltimore campus
9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m (closed 1-2 p.m.)
phone: 410-955-3321;
fax: 410-614-9752

Cell Center
1017B Blalock, East Baltimore campus
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Liquid nitrogen freezer access: 10 to 11:30 a.m.; 2 to 4 p.m.
Dry ice: 9 to 10 a.m.; 2 to 4 p.m.
phone: 410-955-3320;
fax: 410-614-7647

DNA Analysis Facility
1005 Blalock, East Baltimore campus
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
phone: sequencing services, 410-955-2836, synthesis, 410-614-3649;
fax: 410-614-3148

Fragment Analysis Facility
Lighthouse Point East, suite 201, 2760 Boston St.
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
phone: 410-614-3830; fax: 410-614-3148

SNP Center
Triad Building, Bayview Medical Center (customer drop at 1005 Blalock)
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
phone: 410-859-3085


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