GREENWOOD — South Carolina will greatly increase its role in world-class genetics research through a partnership that represents a cornerstone of economic development in Greenwood County.

Clemson University, in conjunction with the Greenwood Genetic Center, will expand existing facilities of the J.C. Self Research Institute to add a 17,000-square-foot research and education center in human genetics on nearly 15 acres donated by Greenwood County and the Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works. The site is located adjacent to the Greenwood Genetic Center within the Greenwood Research Park.

The Clemson University Center for Human Genetics will be a core campus for recruiting research and development companies engaged in human diagnostics, cognitive development, central nervous system, autism, birth defects, cancer and inflammatory diseases. The collaborative will seek new discoveries in genetic diagnostics and epigenetic therapeutics.

The project will expand Clemson University’s existing doctoral program in human genetics, create an internationally competitive research and development team and expand research capabilities at the Self Institute.

At a groundbreaking ceremony today, Clemson University President James F. Barker said the research collaborative will build on successful business models developed at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville and the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston. Like those campuses, the Greenwood center will be underpinned by a coordinated program with three primary elements: education, research and economic development.

The Greenwood Genetic Center will open its campus to Clemson scientists, whose teams will research diagnostics and therapeutics that have the potential to provide immediate diagnosis of a variety of diseases.

Additionally, the Genetic Center and Clemson will evaluate research to create novel diagnostics that may be used to predict the efficacy of therapeutics for targeted diseases and provide early diagnostic tests. The research has the potential to identify better treatments for chronic disorders, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease — known for high prevalence in South Carolina.

Barker acknowledged the involvement of Greenwood County, city of Greenwood, Greenwood Partnership Alliance, The Self Family Foundation, Greenwood Genetic Center, Greenwood Commission of Public Works, Greenwood Metropolitan District and others who volunteered time and money to make the project possible.

“This project is the result of a seven-year effort by the entire community,” Barker said. “The collaboration creates a center with state-of-the-art genetic equipment and expertise in the heart of South Carolina.”

Steven A. Skinner, Greenwood Genetic Center director and senior clinical geneticist, said the collaboration between Clemson and the Center provides the foundation for the advancement of genetic diagnosis and therapeutics for patients not only across South Carolina, but globally.

The presence of Clemson faculty and graduate students will enhance the already world-class research conducted in Greenwood, and will vastly increase the research capacity towards the goal of reducing the impact of genetic disorders.

“A clear diagnosis combined with understanding the mechanisms of disease are what lead to effective therapies and improved quality of life for patients and their families,” Skinner said. “Put simply, this partnership will hasten the pace of progress and enhance the recognition of South Carolina as home to one of the nation’s most productive and important facilities for genetics research and development.”

The initiative represents a cornerstone of Greenwood County’s recruitment strategy, with direct economic benefits to the county and the state.

The state will benefit from increased research, development and manufacturing with potential to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in research, manufacturing and agriculture during the next decade, said Mark Warner, chief executive officer of Greenwood Partnership Alliance.

The initiative forms the perfect match to create successful public-private partnerships and research in genetics, Warner said. Greenwood County will be the location associated with genetics research and development.

“Together, we will greatly advance the science in these fields,” Warner said.

After an architect is selected, work on site will begin after an approximate nine-month design phase.

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