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.
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—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
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.
GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY FOR HUDSONALPHA
Groundbreaking ceremony for HudsonAlpha; also formally established the CRP Biotech Campus.
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.
RIBBON-CUTTING FOR ASSOCIATE WING
Ribbon-cutting for HudsonAlpha Associates Wing and announcement of 12 resident companies.
With Francis Collins, MD, PhD (current NIH Director), then-Governor Bob Riley, scientists, biotech business leaders and hundreds of enthusiastic supporters, HudsonAlpha opens.
EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH LAUNCHES PROGRAMS
September of 2008 Biotech 101 public education seminar series debuts. BioTrain Internship program launches in summer of 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.
JACKSON CENTER OPENS
Second building on CRP Biotech Campus, the Jackson Center, opens in 2009.
Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) sequences soybean, an important agricultural crop worldwide.
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.
GE HEALTHCARE ACQUIRES CLARIENT
Clarient acquired HudsonAlpha associate company, Applied Genomics, in 2009.
701 MCMILLIAN WAY GROUNDBREAKING
Third building on HudsonAlpha’s 152-acre campus to house biotech companies and HudsonAlpha research.
INAUGURAL DOUBLE HELIX DASH
5K and 1-mile twilight run at McMillian Park supports HudsonAlpha’s genomic research.
CFD RESEARCH EXPANDS INTO 701 MCMILLIAN WAY
CFD Research becomes anchor tenant in newly opened building.
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.
HudsonAlpha Foundation established as philanthropic arm, supporting the work of the Institute.
DIATHERIX ACQUIRED BY EUROFINS
Global healthcare company Eurofins adds molecular diagnostic strength with acquisition of Diatherix Laboratories.
FIRST ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY RELEASED
HudsonAlpha’s economic impact from 2006-2014 has been $1.3 billion.
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.
INFORMATION IS POWER LAUNCHES
Information is Power program starts offering free genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk to people in North Alabama.
SMITH FAMILY CLINIC
Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine and the HudsonAlpha Clinical Services Lab open to provide clinical care to patients.
New genes associated with ALS discovered.
100TH GENETIC DIAGNOSIS IN CSER PROGRAM
Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research (CSER) program provides 100th child with a genetic diagnosis.
BREAST CANCER DISCOVERY
New genes associated with triple negative breast cancer discovered.
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.
$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.
FIRST FDA CLEARANCE
Associate company, iCubate earns first FDA clearance on HudsonAlpha campus, with comprehensive bloodstream infection assay and platform.
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.
DECADE OF DISCOVERY
HudsonAlpha celebrates a Decade of Discovery, the ten-year anniversary of opening the doors of the Institute.
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.
The HudsonAlpha campus expands, opening the Paul Propst Center at 800 Hudson Way.
HudsonAlpha Genomic Services Laboratory spins out and joins Discovery Life Sciences.
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.
STEM EDUCATION ROADMAP
HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach Vice President leads statewide effort to improve STEM education in Alabama.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY-HUDSONALPHA JOINT FACULTY
Alex Harkess, PhD, becomes joint faculty member at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture and at HudsonAlpha.
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.
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.
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.
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.