Cores Enable Significant Savings and Further Invigorate the Research
By creating economies of scale through the pooling of financial resources and scientific expertise, cores make available technologies and knowledge that might otherwise be inaccessible to individual stem cell researchers.
The primary advantage of most cores is the significant savings that can be passed on to the faculty. Some cores operate as informal financial sharing arrangements between a group of investigators who pool resources together to purchase equipment and hire technical staff. The FACS core at Arastradero operates in this way. If we calculated the benefits for a core with eight FACS sorters as we are planning for the building, the savings would amount to about $2.6 million a year. This scale of savings, when multiplied by the number of cores we operate, is significant.
Other cores operate more formally as specialized service centers that recover their costs from users or from development support provided by departments or the Dean. In this business model, the University loans to the core the substantial startup costs associated with equipment purchases. The SoM subsidizes the cores by assuming space rental charges. Economies of scale are achieved through the consolidation of technical personnel needed to operate the cores, and the larger volume discounts that can be obtained from vendors due to increased buying power. The upfront equipment charges are amortized over five years, and these plus yearly operating and maintenance costs are distributed to users. Spreading the base of users to researchers both at Stanford and at collaborating institutions makes the service much more affordable for individual investigators. Cores such as the BFNL operate in this fashion.
In the vivarium, concentrated resources and expertise enable us to have our own in-house breeding program. Breeding the specialized mice required for testing of human of stem cells at Stanford instead of purchasing the needed mice from a commercial vendor will result in an estimated annual savings of $1 million per year minimally. The savings realized could grow to much more significant numbers depending on the size of the mouse colonies.
Other cores such as the hESC laboratory offer the benefit of overflow space for tissue culture and advanced equipment for micromanipulation to offset some of the costs of procurement for individual users. In addition, the costs and extensive regulatory work involved in procuring tissues are streamlined and minimized through the tissue procurement cores.
A great advantage is that cores naturally bring many researchers together, and ensuing discussions and collaborations have led to many innovations that further enhance our capabilities. Critical cores, such as the microfluidics and imaging cores, provide the greatest benefit simply by allowing the concentration of scientific expertise and technology to empower researchers to explore new avenues of research that would not otherwise be possible. Core staff and investigator synergy result in the development of new services offered, and investigators then use the services in novel ways.
In addition to the not insignificant savings in yearly operating costs that are realized through consolidating resources among a large number of users, some of the biggest savings obtained are through cost avoidance. Stanford has made very significant investments in these cores over the years. If these cores were not already available at Stanford and we had to recreate them, the cost would be prohibitive. We estimate that if we were to recreate even only 20% of the cores currently available at Stanford, the increased cost of building construction alone, excluding equipment and staffing costs, would amount to around $27 million.
The biostatistics faculty and academic staff, housed in the Department of Health Research and Policy, assist basic and clinical/translational researchers at each stage of a study's lifecycle, including project design, mid-study evaluation and the interpretation and reporting of results. They also assist with the statistical review of proposed studies and the planning of research-related data management systems, and in the training and mentoring of clinical/translational researchers. Our biostatistics faculty and staff are nationally and internationally known for developing innovative statistical methodologies, including methods for design and conduct of clinical trials, analysis of microarray, proteomics, genome scan, and other high-dimensional data from modern high-throughput devices. Some specific areas of major contributions include: the bootstrap, classification and regression trees, SAM/PAM, dCHIP, the equipoise stratified clinical trial, group sequential designs, biased-coin allocation in trials, supervised principal components, penalized logistic regression, wavelets, local false discovery rates, fundamental software for survival analysis, and imputation techniques.
Many of the biostatistics faculty have appointments in other departments across the University, including Statistics and Computer Sciences, which help bring a variety of important perspectives to bear on problems arising in medical research. The biostatistics faculty and staff play key roles in the Cancer Center, the Stanford Center for Clinical Translational Education and Research, and several large program projects in the medical school. Although it is highly regarded for its innovative advances in statistical science, the biostatistics faculty interacts closely and constantly with other SoM researchers, spending the great majority of their time (over 75%, typically) in funded research collaborations, mostly with clinical and translational researchers.
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Cancer Imaging Core
The Cancer Imaging Core supports the in vivo structural and functional analysis of animal models of cancer through state-of-the-art imaging instrumentation and variety of services. Existing technologies include a number of in vivo optical bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging systems offering 3D images of cellular and molecular processes. As part of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford, the core also serves as a test bed for advances in molecular imaging that have preclinical and clinical applications, and will serve to advise and enrich the Lokey Stem Cell imaging core.
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Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Clinic
The Stanford University Center for Reproductive Medicine maintains one of the largest, and most successful, academic ART clinic in the western United States. More than 1100 ART procedures are performed annually and a decoded database with associated tissue bank (with embryos, oocytes and somatic cells) is maintained through collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Medicine and the SISCB/RM. Thus, we are uniquely positioned clinically in ART.
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