The Story of HudsonAlpha

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology has a four-fold mission of conducting genomics-based research to improve human health and well being; implementing genomic medicine, sparking entrepreneurship and economic development; and providing educational outreach to nurture the next generation of biotech researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as to create a biotech literate public.

HudsonAlpha is the brainchild of founders James R. Hudson, Jr. and the late Lonnie S. McMillian, who passed away in 2018. Both men enjoyed career paths that led them to understand the promise of genomics and both possessed the drive to translate that promise into measurable, real world results. The announcement of the creation of the nonprofit Institute came in 2005, and the doors opened in 2008. Lonnie McMillian’s incredible generosity, along with the State of Alabama, provided the funding needed to make the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology a reality.

Drawing on their experience and envisioning a course for the future, Hudson and McMillian recognized that four ingredients are essential for improving human health and well-being: education, research-driven discovery, clinical care, and entrepreneurship. HudsonAlpha unites these four endeavors into a single enterprise. Since the Institute’s 2008 opening, HudsonAlpha has generated major discoveries that impact disease diagnosis and treatment, created intellectual property, created a clinical genomic health program, fostered biotechnology companies, and expanded the number of biosciences-literate people, many of whom will be the future workforce.

Jim Hudson

Equal parts scientist and businessman, Jim Hudson’s investments have shaped the advancement of biotechnology around the world—but especially in the state of Alabama. Hudson founded and served as chief executive of Research Genetics, Inc., which in the 1990s became the world’s leader in genetic linkage products and an integral partner in the Human Genome Project. This international effort, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, identified the sequence of the DNA found inside human cells. Following Research Genetics’ 1999 merger with Invitrogen Corp. (now ThermoFisher Scientific, Inc.), Hudson remained committed to local entrepreneurs, serving as a mentor and advisor to companies in industries ranging from genetics research to internet services.

Lonnie McMillian

Lonnie McMillian—the “Alpha” in HudsonAlpha—is an engineer by training. Early in his career McMillian co-founded a company that built mini computers and he helped it grow into a successful venture that employed hundreds of people. The company’s 1981 sale kicked off a series of successful business ventures that culminated in 1986 with McMillian and Mark Smith co-founding ADTRAN, today a leading global provider of networking and communications equipment. By the 1990s he had turned his attention to biotechnology and, following his 2001 retirement from ADTRAN, he immersed himself in the life sciences. Along the way he sought out Jim Hudson, then at Research Genetics, and the idea of a nonprofit institute to move basic discoveries into real-world applications for biotechnology began to take shape. Like Hudson, McMillian has mentored countless aspiring entrepreneurs and, as a philanthropist, his nonprofit Alpha Foundation has honored a long-standing commitment to Huntsville’s economic development and growth.

The Story of HudsonAlpha

2004-2005

ANONYMOUS DONATIONS TOTALING $80 MILLION

Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillian plan and establish the non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Combining  $80 million in philanthropic contributions, anchored by the Alpha Foundation,   with $50 million from the State of Alabama, HudsonAlpha is formed with the goal of moving advancements in genomics to improve the human condition. 


January 2006 

GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY FOR HUDSONALPHA

Groundbreaking ceremony for HudsonAlpha; also formally established the CRP Biotech Campus.


September 2007 

RICK MYERS NAMED DIRECTOR OF HUDSONALPHA

Dr. Rick Myers, professor and chair of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and director of the Stanford Human Genome Center named director of HudsonAlpha.


November 2007

RIBBON-CUTTING FOR ASSOCIATE WING

Ribbon-cutting for HudsonAlpha Associates Wing and announcement of 12 resident companies.


April 2008 

GRAND OPENING

With Francis Collins, MD, PhD (current NIH Director), then-Governor Bob Riley, scientists, biotech business leaders and hundreds of enthusiastic supporters, HudsonAlpha opens. 


2008-2009 

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH LAUNCHES PROGRAMS

September of 2008 Biotech 101 public education seminar series debuts. BioTrain Internship program launches in summer of 2009.


May 2009 

FIRST DISCOVERY TO APPLICATION

HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator, Jian Han, MD, PhD, develops rapid response, molecular-level assay for swine flu (strain of the H1N1 family of the influenza virus). The test is incorporated into a viral respiratory panel made available by HudsonAlpha resident associate company Diatherix Laboratories.


September 2009 

JACKSON CENTER OPENS

Second building on CRP Biotech Campus, the Jackson Center, opens in 2009.  


January 2010 

SOYBEAN SEQUENCED

Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) sequences soybean, an important agricultural crop worldwide.


March 2010 

MCMILLIAN PARK GROUNDBREAKING

Co-founder Lonnie McMillian establishes McMillian Park, with it’s signature double helix walkway, as a central part of the HudsonAlpha campus.


October 2010 

GE HEALTHCARE ACQUIRES CLARIENT

Clarient acquired HudsonAlpha associate company, Applied Genomics, in 2009.


June 2011 

701 MCMILLIAN WAY GROUNDBREAKING

Third building on HudsonAlpha’s 152-acre campus to house biotech companies and HudsonAlpha research.


April 2012 

INAUGURAL DOUBLE HELIX DASH

5K and 1-mile twilight run at McMillian Park supports HudsonAlpha’s genomic research.


October 2013

CFD RESEARCH EXPANDS INTO 701 MCMILLIAN WAY

CFD Research becomes anchor tenant in newly opened building.


June 2014 

CENTER FOR GENOMIC MEDICINE

HudsonAlpha and the UAB School of Medicine have formed the Center for Genomic Medicine to accelerate discoveries in genomics and propel those discoveries into clinical practice.


March 2015

HUDSONALPHA FOUNDATION

HudsonAlpha Foundation established as philanthropic arm, supporting the work of the Institute.


June 2015

DIATHERIX ACQUIRED BY EUROFINS

Global healthcare company Eurofins adds molecular diagnostic strength with acquisition of Diatherix Laboratories.


June 2015 

FIRST ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY RELEASED

HudsonAlpha’s economic impact from 2006-2014 has been $1.3 billion.


August 2015

GENOMIC HEALTH PROGRAM LAUNCHES

The Institute’s fourth mission, Genomic Health, is launched to leverage the power of genomics for use in a clinical setting and to establish a clinic for genomic medicine.


October 2015

INFORMATION IS POWER LAUNCHES

Information is Power program starts offering free genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk to people in North Alabama.


November 2015

SMITH FAMILY CLINIC

Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine and the HudsonAlpha Clinical Services Lab open to provide clinical care to patients.


February 2015

ALS DISCOVERY

New genes associated with ALS discovered.


October 2016

100TH GENETIC DIAGNOSIS IN CSER PROGRAM

Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research (CSER) program provides 100th child with a genetic diagnosis.


January 2017

BREAST CANCER DISCOVERY

New genes associated with triple negative breast cancer discovered.


July 2017

ALABAMA GENOMIC HEALTH INITIATIVE BEGINS

HudsonAlpha and UAB begin statewide effort to harness the power of genomic analysis to identify those at high risk for genetic disease.


July 2017 

$500M  ECONOMIC IMPACT IN 24 MONTHS

HudsonAlpha’s non-profit labs and resident associate companies have generated $1.85 billion since the institute’s inception.


August 2017

FIRST FDA CLEARANCE 

Associate company, iCubate earns first FDA clearance on HudsonAlpha campus, with comprehensive bloodstream infection assay and platform.


March 2018

NATIONAL SCIENCE COMMUNICATOR AWARD

HudsonAlpha Vice President for Educational Outreach, Neil Lamb, PhD, receives the Faraday Science Communicator Award from the National Science Teachers Association.


April 2018

DECADE OF DISCOVERY

HudsonAlpha celebrates a Decade of Discovery, the ten-year anniversary of opening the doors of the Institute.


July 2018

CAMPUS REACH

HudsonAlpha’s campus boasts 14 faculty members with more than 650 published papers, The campus includes 35 associate companies. The Educational Outreach team at HudsonAlpha has impacted more than five and a half million individuals from 2008-2018.


September 2018 

CAMPUS GROWTH

The HudsonAlpha campus expands, opening the Paul Propst Center at 800 Hudson Way.


March 2019 

HUDSONALPHA DISCOVERY

HudsonAlpha Genomic Services Laboratory spins out and joins Discovery Life Sciences.


July 2019 

ECONOMIC IMPACT TO STATE OF ALABAMA TOTALS $2.45B

HudsonAlpha and the associate companies have generated $2.45 billion for Alabama’s economy since 2006 with growth of $600 million over the past two years.


November 2019

STEM EDUCATION ROADMAP

HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach Vice President leads statewide effort to improve STEM education in Alabama.


March 2020 

AUBURN UNIVERSITY-HUDSONALPHA JOINT FACULTY

Alex Harkess, PhD, becomes joint faculty member at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture and at HudsonAlpha.


April 2020 

PARTNERSHIP WITH EAST ALABAMA MEDICAL CENTER

HudsonAlpha Health Alliance and the East Alabama Medical Center partner to find tangible benefits for employees through genomic research.  


June 2020 

FIRST ENDOWED FACULTY CHAIR NAMED

Through a $1.5 million gift to the HudsonAlpha Foundation, Rick Myers, PhD, HudsonAlpha president and science director, has been appointed as the M.A. Loya Endowed Faculty Chair in Genomics.


July 2020 

ENCODE DISCOVERIES

Researchers at HudsonAlpha, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, CalTech, Penn State, UC Irvine and others involved in The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Project release the latest findings on how the human genome functions.


September 2020 

HUDSONALPHA CAMPUS

HudsonAlpha is the anchor of the biotech community in north Alabama. There are nearly 900 scientists, educators and businesspeople working in 16 non-profit labs and 45 biotech companies. The men and women working on the 152-acre HudsonAlpha campus continue to produce foundational genomic information and to advance diagnostics, therapeutics and a variety of other products and services.