Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, with the Morrow Plots in the foreground
Established 2006
Mission To advance life sciences research and stimulate bioeconomic development in the state of Illinois.
Focus Transformative research in systems biology, cellular and metabolic engineering and genome technology.
Director Gene E. Robinson
Location Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
Address 1206 W Gregory Drive

The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is an interdisciplinary facility for genomics research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The construction of the IGB, which was completed in 2006, represented a strategy to centralize biotechnology research at the University of Illinois. A goal of the IGB is to provide a collaborative environment in which researchers with diverse backgrounds are drawn together by their pursuit of scientific questions related to genomics. The interdisciplinary nature of the institute promotes the creation of innovative solutions to societal challenges related to health, the environment, and food production. Current research at the IGB explores the genomic bases of a wide range of phenomena, including the progression of cancer, the ecological impact of global change, tissue and organ growth, and the diversity of animal behavior.[1]



Plans for what would become the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) were formed in the late 1990s.[1] Initially, the facility was to be named the Post-Genomic Institute; the name was changed to Institute for Genomic Biology in 2003.[2] Funds of $67.5 million were initially appropriated by the state of Illinois for construction in 2000.[3] In response to economic hardships, the state halted plans for construction in 2001 as part of a large set of budget cuts,[4] but in 2002, funds were re-appropriated.[5] Construction began in April 2004 and was completed in November 2006. The building was dedicated in March 2007.[1] The Institute, initially named the Institute for Genomic Biology, officially changed its name to the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology in 2015 to honor the scientific contributions of Carl Woese.


The IGB was initially led by Harris Lewin, then a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois. Lewin served as the founding director until 2011, when he accepted the position of Research Vice Chancellor at University of California, Davis. Gene E. Robinson, a professor in the Entomology department, took over as Interim Director, and was named the new Director of IGB in January 2012.[1]



The IGB houses over 130 faculty and 600+ graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research personnel. IGB faculty are drawn from a broad range of departments, including Crop Sciences, Psychology, Entomology, Physics and Computer Science.[1]


The research goals of the IGB fall under one of three Program Areas (Systems Biology, Cellular and Metabolic Engineering, and Genome Technology). Work at the IGB addresses societal challenges related to health, the environment, and food production, both through basic science research and through exploration of ethical and legal issues. Research is further organized into Themes, each of which occupies a customized lab and office space. Each Theme contains multiple research groups. These groups often pursue some research questions independently, but are unified by a common interest in the broader area of the Theme. The multi-group space encourages communication and collaboration between researchers with diverse backgrounds and technical skills. One senior faculty member acts as Theme leader, and is responsible for shaping and guiding the overall research initiative. Themes are reviewed every five years; new Themes may be added or existing Themes modified to reflect the current state of genomics research. Current Themes are listed below:[1]

Research Themes at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Theme Theme Leader Description of Research
Anticancer Discovery from Pets to People (ACPP) Paul Hergenrother Discovers and develops novel anticancer agents for the treatment of companion animal and human patients.
Biocomplexity (BCXT) Nigel Goldenfeld Develops quantitative techniques for the description and study of natural phenomena on many levels, from single molecules to ecosystems.
Biosystems Design (BSD) Huimin Zhao Develops tools to efficiently and systematically control gene expression in eukaryotic cells, technology with potential applications in medicine, food crop improvement and biofuel production.
Computing Genomes for Reproductive Health (CGRH) Derek Wildman Identifies molecular mechanisms contributing to preterm birth and other disorders of pregnancy.
Genomic Ecology of Global Change (GEGC) Donald Ort Examines how alterations in carbon uptake and release in organisms exposed to aspects of global climate change are mediated by gene networks.
Gene Networks in Neural and Developmental Biology (GNDP) Lisa Stubbs Investigates the conserved gene networks that may support commonalities in behavior across diverse animal species, and how differences in those networks contribute to behavioral differences between species.
Mining Microbial Genomes (MMG) William Metcalf Characterizes the functions and properties of microbial gene products and metabolites, in an effort to discover molecules with novel and useful chemical properties.
Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering (RBTE) Brendan Harley Investigates the properties of tissue growth, and develops technologies to replace or regenerate tissues or organs that have been affected by medical conditions.
Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI)[lower-alpha 1] Chris Somerville[lower-alpha 2] Seeks to develop and improve sources of two major types of bioenergynon-food crops and fossil-fuel microbiology—in part through investigation of the genomic specializations of the organisms involved in each.

Notable awards and partnerships

In 2007, the University of Illinois, along with the University of California, became partners with the energy company BP as part of a major research project to develop bioenergy sources. The University of Illinois facility is based in the IGB.[6]

In 2011, Abbott Nutrition and the University of Illinois formed collaboration to establish a research center for the study of the relationship between nutrition and cognition, the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory (CNLM). Several campus units are currently partners of CNLM, including the IGB.[7]


The IGB is located on the south side of the University of Illinois main campus at Urbana-Champaign. The building was constructed by the architecture firm CUH2A (now a part of the architecture-engineering company HDR). The exterior of the building was designed to include elements of Georgian architecture, consistent with many other campus buildings, but with a modern feel.[8] Inside, each Research Theme has a large, open plan laboratory space and additional work rooms and office and meeting area.[1] The building stands adjacent to the Morrow Plots.

See also


  1. Rather than a traditional Theme, the Energy Biosciences Institute is an externally funded research institute. See Notable awards and partnerships.
  2. Professor of Alternative Energy at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute. Isaac Cann, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, is Deputy Director.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The Institute for Genomic Biology: Where science meets society.". Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  2. Tallon, Mary (2003-07-18). "U. Illinois trustees approve health benefits for same-sex partners.". Daily Illini.
  3. "Governor expected to unveil $1 billion technology initiative.". Associated Press Services. 2000-01-29.
  4. McDermott, Kevin (2001-11-28). "Ryan pares $219 million from Illinois budget.". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  5. "State gives U. of I. $123 million for tech buildings.". Midwest Construction. December 2002.
  6. Mercer, David (2007-02-01). "Two U.S. universities chosen by BP for partnership in alternative-fuels research.". Associated Press Worldstream.
  7. des Garennes, Christine (2011-12-22). "University of Illinois, Abbott developing nutrition, cognition research center.". The News-Gazette.
  8. "Award winning Institute for Genomic Biology designed by CUH2A opens at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.". Business Wire. 2007-04-18.

Coordinates: 40°06′17″N 88°13′30″W / 40.104728°N 88.225011°W / 40.104728; -88.225011

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