The 19 New York-area institutional members of the Academy for Medical Development and Collaboration can save money and collaborate with others through the organization's recently enhanced online registry of core facilities, services, and instruments.
New York-area consortium brings together institutions to save funds and speed science via an enhanced online registry
Want to image mice for a study but lack a small-bore MRI system? Need to quickly obtain genomic sequencing on tumor samples but find that no one at your institution's facility can run the tests for weeks? In search of wet lab space?
Thanks to an online registry called AMDeC FIRST (Facilities Instrumentation Resources Services & Technologies), members of the Academy for Medical Development and Collaboration (AMDeC) can easily find the instruments, technologies, and services they seek at other member research institutions in the New York region. The registry lists more than 100 core facilities in areas such as genomics, proteomics, imaging, pathology, and flow cytometry. These resources can be shared by others or accessed for a fee.
“AMDeC FIRST allows researchers to examine options for obtaining services that best suit their needs in a timely manner,” says Diane Tabarini, PhD, director of Core Facility Operations at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, an AMDeC member. “It also allows core facilities to benchmark against their own services and decide when it is more prudent to purchase a new technology or develop a service and when it is more reasonable to navigate their users to other cores.”
FIRST's recent upgrades—including guided questions that help users pinpoint the products and services they want, and charts that help them compare cost, availability, and other features—make it more user friendly. The organization plans to further enhance the registry to enable the sale and purchase of scientific services online.
Access isn't restricted to the consortium's 19 members—mainly colleges, universities, medical facilities, and research institutions. Biotech and pharmaceutical companies can purchase subscriptions to FIRST to identify technologies and research resources at member institutions for use on a discounted basis. They can also identify academic partners.
Launched in 1997, AMDeC's original mission was to raise money for scientific research and to encourage collaboration among investigators. One of the first projects AMDeC funded was the New York Cancer Project, which enrolled more than 18,000 ethnically diverse New Yorkers to study the interaction of genes and environment in the development of cancer. To date, researchers have published nearly 40 peer-reviewed articles using data from the project.
More recently, AMDeC has worked with industry to negotiate special discounts on laboratory services and supplies, such as reagents, for its members. To maximize efficiency and save money, it established several shared core research facilities, including a bioinformatics core research facility at Columbia University's Genome Center.
After surveying its members, the organization launched FIRST in June 2010. “Because of the economics of research and cutbacks in funding, we thought it would be invaluable to facilitate more efficient use of resources by understanding what instruments and services were available throughout the consortium and where there was excess capacity that could be shared,” says AMDeC President Maria Mitchell, PhD.
“It allows our members to save money and create a revenue stream to further advance their research,” remarks Mitchell. “That way, they don't have to worry about raising as much money.”
Other groups like AMDeC exist around the United States. For example, members of BayBio, a life sciences association in northern California, receive discounts on various products and services. But Mitchell isn't aware of any other groups that connect members looking to access core facilities or instruments or to fill excess capacity. As a result, she often fields calls from institutions in other parts of the country seeking advice about starting a registry like FIRST.
“Critical to the utility of a service such as AMDeC FIRST is the ability to efficiently and quickly gather information about core services and to keep this information up to date. One of the most important success factors for this is having strong relationships with members and core directors who are supportive of the initiative,” explains Mitchell. “We are fortunate in having both.”