Vice President Priya Visits the UMGC 4Front Lab

April 2, 2024

vp tour

On March 28, VP for Research and Innovation Shashank Priya and Associate VP Kimberly Kirkpatrick visited the UMGC's new, centralized lab at 4Front Technology Campus in Oakdale. UMGC 4Front houses core operations and high-throughput workflows, once spread across four locations. With operations now centralized, the UMGC expects a boost in efficiency and productivity.

vp tour

Welcomed by 40 scientists and staff, VP Priya shared the goals and updates from the Research and Innovation Office and highlighted the important role genomics has in advancing the University’s research mission.

VP Priya and AVP Kirkpatrick then sat down with Daryl Gohl and the Innovation Lab team, who highlighted the IL’s role in genomic metrology, genomic method development, research to tackle key challenges for the state of Minnesota (COVID strain sequencing and Zebra mussel eradication), and collaboration with the Biosensing and Biorobotics Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, led by Dr. Suhasa Kodandaramaiah. This collaborative R&D resulted in the commercialization of a system for automated microinjection of Drosophila embryos via a new UMN startup – Objective Biotechnology – which won the Walleye pitch competition held earlier this month.

As part of the visit, VP Priya was treated to a hands-on tour led by Jerry Daniel, Operations Manager. VP Priya and AVP Kirkpatrick donned lab coats and gloves and were guided through several workstations, learning how samples are received and tracked, continuing all the way through to sequencing and data delivery.

VP tour

They learned to grind a leaf sample under liquid nitrogen to preserve high-molecular weight DNA for long-read sequencing and tried their skills at operating the VIAFLO robot used in 16S/18S/ITS amplicon sequencing. During the demonstration, Dinesha Walek, UMGC Managing Director, emphasized that being in a centralized lab now enables staff to work and communicate far more efficiently and quickly than has been the case in the past, with samples moving seamlessly from one process to the next. 

After the lab tour, VP Priya and AVP Kirkpatrick met with the next-generation sequencing (NGS) and informatics groups to learn about the UMGC’s expanding fleet of NGS instruments and NGS data release and analysis services. UMGC Staff were delighted that Drs. Priya and Kirkpatrick took time to come to visit and plan future tours for other stakeholders who may be interested in seeing “UMGC East”.