Jackson Lab hires first scientist for Connecticut institute

An American geneticist who works in Singapore and developed techniques for sequencing and mapping DNA is the first scientist to be hired for The Jackson Laboratory’s planned Connecticut institute.

Yijun Ruan is currently associate director and senior group leader at the Genome Institute of Singapore and serves as a professor of biochemistry at the National University of Singapore. He will bring his research program and team of about six people to JAX Genomic Medicine, the institute that will be built on the UConn Health Center’s Farmington campus. Jackson, which is based in Bar Harbor, Maine, announced the hiring Thursday.

JAX Genomic Medicine, which is being developed with $291 million in state funds, is intended to bring together scientists, doctors and industry to develop ways to tailor medical treatments to each person’s genetic makeup. Ruan and other scientists will begin working this year in leased space on the health center’s campus while a 173,000-square-foot facility is built. That facility is expected to open in 2014.

Ruan has patents in several countries for DNA analysis techniques he helped develop, according to Jackson. He also serves as an investigator for the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements project, an international consortium of researchers funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

“Yijun’s broad interests in genome biology, coupled with his innovative approach to developing new research techniques, make him an ideal member of the new JAX Genomic Medicine research team,” Bob Braun, Jackson’s associate director and chair of research, said in a statement.

Ruan has degrees from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China, and the University of Maryland, College Park. He previously worked at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis and Large Scale Biology Corp. in Vacaville, Calif.

Jackson’s president and CEO Edison Liu, who will be speaking at The Connecticut Science Center Friday morning, previously directed the genome institute in Singapore where Ruan now works.