Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, non-profit institution with research programs focusing on cancer, neuroscience, plant biology, genomics, and quantitative biology.

It is one of 68 institutions supported by the Cancer Centers Program of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and has been an NCI-designated Cancer Center since 1987. The Laboratory is one of a handful of institutions that played a central role in the development of molecular genetics and molecular biology.

Principal cancer types under study: breast, prostate, blood (leukemia, lymphoma); melanoma; liver; ovarian and cervical; lung; brain; pancreas. Research foci: drug resistance; cancer genomics; tumor microenvironment; growth control in mammalian cells; transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation.

In addition to its research mission, CSHL has a broad educational mission. The Watson School of Biological Sciences (WSBS), established in 1998, awards the Ph.D. degree and fully funds the research program of every student. Students are challenged to obtain their doctoral degree in 45 years. The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) for gifted college students (established in 1959), and the Partners for the Future Program for advanced high school students (established in 1990) are now hosted at the WSBS.

The DNA Learning Center (DNALC), founded in 1988, was among the early pioneers in developing hands-on genetics lab experiences for middle and high school students. In 2013, 31,000 students on Long Island and New York City were taught genetics labs at the DNALC and satellite facilities in New York. Over 9,000 high school biology teachers have participated in DNALC teacher-training programs.

In 2015, CSHL had an operating budget of $150 million, over $100 million of which was spent on research. Half of the research budget was devoted to cancer; 25% to neuroscience; 15% to genomics and quantitative biology; and 10% to plant sciences. The sources of research funding in 2015 were: 34% Federal (primarily National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation); 26% auxiliary activities; 22% private philanthropy; 10% endowment; 3% corporate.

John F. Cairns was appointed as the Director of the merged Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1963 and found that in the absence of continued financial support from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the newly created institution was in desperate need of funds to supports its programs and that many facilities needed upgrading. Cairns stabilized the Laboratory and made essential improvements to the facilities. He decided in 1968 that he would step down as Director and he remained at CSHL until 1973, moving then to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in Mill Hill near London, UK. While at CSHL, Cairns performed important experiments on DNA replication in the bacteria E. coli.

Since 1994 biochemist and cancer biologist Bruce Stillman has led the Laboratory as director, and since 2003 as president. Stillman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society, also continues to run a basic research lab, devoted to the study of DNA replication and chromosome maintenance. Stillman is credited with the 1991 discovery and elucidation of the mechanism of the Origin Recognition Complex (ORC), a highly conserved protein complex that recognizes and binds to specific DNA sequences, marking starting points for replication of the entire genome.

Stillman has presided over a major expansion of the Laboratory, its size growing threefold since he became director. With construction completed on six linked laboratory buildings on the Hillside Campus in 2009, CSHL added much-needed new laboratory space for cancer and neuroscience research, as well as space for a new program on quantitative biology to bring experts in mathematics, computer science, statistics, and physics to problems in biology.

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EPIGENETICS IN BACTERIA

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