Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics
Frozen Tissue Collection
Frozen Tissue Collection

In May 2001, the Museum announced the establishment of the Institute for Comparative Genomics (ICG). The Institute is a preeminent center for collections, research, and training in the field of non-human comparative genomics and pursues seminal research in the study of gene variation, which informs our understanding of the human genome, the evolution and history of life, and the conservation of Earth's biodiversity.

News: In 2007, the Institute was named Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics in recognition of the major support of the Sackler Foundation. Other support has been provided by the Ambrose Monell Foundation, for which the frozen tissue collection and two postdoctoral research fellowships are named, and from the Starr Foundation, as well as government sources. In 2007, Dr. George Amato was named Director of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics.

Since its founding in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History has been a leader in studying 3.5 billion years of evolutionary change on Earth and in examining the diverse species that represent the critical branches of phylogeny, the pattern of evolutionary relationships among living and extinct organisms often depicted as the "tree of life." With its extensive research experience in non-human comparative biology, the Museum is in a unique position to gather and analyze data and to provide broad interpretations to help us better understand the history and organization of life on Earth. The Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics advances this tradition into the 21st century and into the field of genomics.

The Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics is an outgrowth of the expansion of the Museum's capacity in key areas related to comparative genomics, beginning with the establishment of the Molecular Program in 1990, one of the first such museum-based programs in the world. In 1994, the establishment of the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics Studies laid the foundation for the creation of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. The Cullman Program extends to a research collaboration with the New York Botanical Garden dedicated to the study of the interdependence of plants and animals.

Among the Museum's facilities are three state-of-the-art molecular laboratories, a parallel-computing facility powered by more than 500 individual processors, and a frozen tissue collection. The Museum's molecular laboratories, totaling 10,000 square feet, include the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research. These laboratories support the work of approximately 70 members of the Museum's scientific staff, who are conducting a broad range of research in genetics and genomics. The powerful, highly sophisticated parallel-computing facility, along with innovative algorithms developed by Museum researchers, allows scientists to construct phylogenies from massive amounts of data that range from fossil traits to DNA sequences. Further supporting this research, the Museum's new frozen tissue facility will be the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, housing a collection of up to one million specimens of DNA from a wide range of species. This new collection, the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research, will enhance the Museum's permanent collections.

The Museum brings this work to the public through programming such as the special exhibition The Genomic Revolution (May 26, 2001-January 1, 2002), accompanied by related films, lectures, and workshops, and the conference "Sequencing the Human Genome: New Frontiers in Science and Technology" (September 2000). With the creation of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, the Museum is consolidating its already considerable genomics and genetics research efforts with its education and outreach mission around an issue of crucial public importance.

Research Programs at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics

1. Research on the Tree of Life
2. Molecular evolution and systematics
3. Phylogeography and population genetics
4. Microbial diversity and evolution
5. Evolution of emerging infectious diseases
6. Conservation genetics and the environment