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Penn is hoping that a $400 billion genetic research center will make its home in University City. Philadelphia and Penn officials are working to bring a major genetics research center to the city that could create thousands of area jobs and generate boundless research opportunities at Penn and other area institutions. The London-based Wellcome Trust, the world's largest medical research charity, is searching the United Kingdom and the U.S. for a suitable location for its new $400 million human genome enterprise. City officials say Philadelphia is the perfect place for the center, which would house researchers seeking to map all three billion chemical parts of human DNA. With Penn's aid, the city submitted a proposal last month to Wellcome officials attempting to persuade them to choose Philadelphia to be the center's home. According to Deputy Health Commissioner Donna Gentile O'Donnell, one of the people who helped write the proposal, Philadelphia has several major selling points. The proposal highlighted the city's abundance of research and teaching hospitals as well as the large biotech company and pharmaceutical industry centered around the Philadelphia region. "We want to sell them Philadelphia," said O'Donnell, who is also a Nursing doctoral student. And Penn administrators echoed O'Donnell's statements. "This is a natural for us," Executive Vice President John Fry said. "This is extremely important from an economic development standpoint, and further reinforces the University's role and the Health System's role as a major economic engine in the city." The Wellcome Trust decided to look abroad for a research center site after land disputes brought negotiations for the center's original location outside Cambridge to a halt. While plans to base the center in the UK may still go through, city officials say it's worth a shot to try and bring the center here. Philadelphia is not the only city Wellcome might consider. Several other major U.S. centers of biomedical research like Boston, Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco might also vie for the privilege to house the research center. But even though the proposal did not suggest specific sites within the city for such a research center, many believe that a location close to Penn is a sure bet for the center's success because of the high possibility for research collaborations. And if Philadelphia is chosen to house the research camp, the University plans to work aggressively to attract the center to West Philadelphia, where it would benefit the area both economically and academically. Fry also said the Civic Center site would be a likely place to house the research complex. "One of the advantages is that we do have a site like the Civic Center," he said. According to Louis Berneman, managing director of the University's Center for Technology Transfer, the proximity of a genetic research center would also "offer collaborative opportunities to our faculty to further their own research initiatives." "There would be interest in putting it near Penn because of our prominence in the biomedical field," Berneman said. Yet while the University lent the city a hand in preparing the proposal, officials say they did not point specifically to an area around Penn as a location for the center. "We need to have a better understanding of their vision before we can offer them proposed sights," O'Donnell said.

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