Coriell Institute for Medical Research: A Legacy of Innovation, A Future of Possibility

It’s an exciting time to be in the life sciences industry in New Jersey. As home to some of the largest pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the world, the Garden State truly has a legacy worth bragging about.

But the smaller players in this space are just as important to the future of the state’s industry. The next Johnson & Johnson may already exist, searching for the capital investments, talent, and infrastructure it needs to thrive. To help, there exists in the Garden State important players in scientific infrastructure, ready to accelerate growth stage organizations through knowledge sharing and laboratory services.

In Camden, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research is home to world’s most diverse biobank collection. Coriell has built its own legacy supporting scientific endeavors around the world, including important collaborations here in New Jersey.

History of Vaccine Development

What’s now known as the Coriell Institute for Medical Research was founded in 1953 by a virologist named Dr. Lewis L. Coriell. Dr. Coriell was instrumental in the development of a vaccine against polio. He developed a novel method to culture the chicken pox virus in a lab setting which was later used to grow polio for the first time, and he led the field trials for the first gamma globulin vaccine for the disease. “The Best News Yet on Polio!” was emblazoned across newspapers upon the first results of these trials showing promise for effective vaccines.

He returned to Camden and built a community of supporters to help him launch his next vision: a new institute dedicated to biomedical research and the standardization of research resources. In these early days, Dr. Coriell and his team of scientists developed and improved on laminar flow hoods, improved aseptic lab techniques, and became a trusted resource for the scientific community.

Dr. Coriell’s greatest impact, however, was the launch of biobanks in collaboration with agencies within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The first of these biobanks was launched in partnership with National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. Those collections have grown in the decades since, making millions of biosamples available to the world. It also pushed Dr. Coriell’s organization to perfect various scientific techniques: to culture cells and store them cryogenically, to extract and analyze their DNA, to support science around the world.

Accelerating Biomedical Discovery

After Dr. Coriell’s retirement in the 1980s, the Institute was named in his honor and his legacy continued. Now known as the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, the Institute continues to support scientific endeavors, large and small alike, through biobanking, laboratory services, and independent translational research. 

The collection of cell line and DNA samples in Coriell’s care constitute one of the most diverse and important repositories in the world. These samples are relied on for genomic research and are used in standards and equipment validation in many laboratories around the world.

Coriell also offers its laboratory services to the greater scientific community. This can dramatically cut the investment needed for a growth stage biotech company to get started. Instead of developing a cell culture laboratory, with the requisite equipment and employees, these organizations can reach out to Coriell and trust its expertise and longstanding reputation for excellence in delivering these services.

Coriell has a state-of-the-art stem cell lab where talented techs generate induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPSCs). These stem cells begin as adult cells of a certain type, a skin cell for instance, and are “reprogrammed” to become iPSCs, a type of stem cell that can become nearly any type of cell in the body. This is a very valuable tool for research as it gives scientists the ability to create biological material with a certain genetic makeup that would be impossible to access by traditional means (living neurons, for example).

These stem cells are a relatively new innovation and their handling requires a great deal of knowledge and care. Coriell’s expert Stem Cell Team ensures that organizations in the Garden State are able to source this rare service locally.

Collaborative Research to Advance Therapies

And Coriell’s research effort is always looking for new ways to collaborate with and boost the variety of medical research organizations calling New Jersey home. The in-house research team at Coriell has launched impactful new programs such as the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative, a 10+ year study into the utility of personalized medicine in personal health decision making, and the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI), a collaborative research project aimed at identifying the genetic and non-genetic risk factors for developing opioid use disorder. For CORI, Coriell teamed up with two of its neighbors in Camden, Cooper University Health Care and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, to tackle a pressing health emergency in its community.

Coriell has also added several researchers with a focus on epigenetics and cancer in the last couple of years. In 2020, Jian Huang, MD, PhD, one of those new scientists, won a new R01 grant from the NIH to find ways to reduce drug resistance in patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of leukemia which arises from bone marrow tissue.

Over the summer, Coriell was named the recipient of a prestigious SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a research program focused on developing epigenetic therapies for cancer. This program is a collaboration between Coriell and Michigan’s Van Andel Institute, but also includes scientists from across the nation.

As Coriell looks to the future, it’s collaborations like those–SPORE, the Camden Opioid Research Initiative—that hold the most promise. Through collaboration, organizations with specialized focuses, with established teams, and with their own histories and missions can team up to tackle the most important and most complicated challenges of our time.

If you are interested in ways that Coriell can assist in your work, please visit https://www.coriell.org

Submitted by Coriell Institute for Medical Research

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