Many details have yet to be filled in, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s newest foray into the battle of the Buffalo economy looks like a winner. There are no guarantees, obviously, but the $105 million plan for a genomic medicine and supercomputer development brings together enough of the region’s existing strengths to make it well worth the funding.
Cuomo announced the project during his State of the State address. It’s the next focus for the Buffalo Billion he promised to help restart the Western New York economy. With it – and other components of his focus on this region – Buffalo stands to stake a claim to a new and powerful economic engine.
And beyond the economic impact is the staggering potential for new treatments and cures for some dread diseases.
The project is expected to create many new jobs, with 600 mentioned as the optimistic maximum. Four companies – two local and two from out of town – have been identified as partners in the project. The out-of-town businesses are expected to move their first employees here by March.
Of the $105 million, $50 million will come to the Buffalo region, mainly to add capacity for the University at Buffalo’s Center for Computational Research, whose existence provides a key reason to locate genomic medicine research here. The other components are life-sciences research conducted at UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute and valuable stores of patient data.
It was just a year ago that Roswell Park announced its new Center for Personalized Medicine. Researchers in the center work to decipher patients’ genes, with the idea that better tests and treatments can be targeted to their genetic abnormalities.
The hope is that by analyzing genetic, medical and personal information from large populations, researchers can determine which patients will respond best to which treatments.
AESKU Diagnostics, one of the companies moving here, develops diagnostic tests and instruments and was looking to establish a research and manufacturing center in the United States. The other company, Lineagen, uses DNA to test children who have displayed symptoms of autism and other forms of developmental delay.
The effort to make this happen was spearheaded by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, which has done strong work in finding promising projects that leverage the Buffalo Billion.
Buffalo is already pushing ahead in creating an advanced health sector that can attract doctors and patients from long distances. The ongoing development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is only the most obvious example of that movement. It’s one of the factors that makes this an exciting possibility for Buffalo.
Part of the excitement, too, is that it’s not just the health care field that is growing here. The inner and outer harbor are developing and two projects stand to remake the area along the Buffalo River: Cuomo’s $225 million RiverBend project that would turn an old industrial site into a hub for clean-energy manufacturing and RiverWorks, a proposed entertainment complex along the river.
All of these projects capitalize on Buffalo’s assets, none more comprehensively than the genomic research project. It represents a thoughtful and deliberate evaluation of disparate strengths in the city and ties them together into a unique business that operates on the cutting edge of science and medicine. That makes it a project that can benefit the city – and health care – for decades to come.