Monday's a big day for DNA in the city of Huntsville

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The Huntsville Times

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama  – Add this to the evidence Huntsville isn’t your typical Southern city. It’s time to celebrate International DNA Day.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology will lead Monday’s commemoration of the discovery of DNA’s now-famous double helix structure. HudsonAlpha is a nonprofit educational and research center and biotech business incubator located at 601 Genome Way in Cummings Research Park.

The event will be held behind HudsonAlpha in McMillian Park, a green space linked by mile-long double-helix sidewalks and named for HudsonAlpha co-founder Lonnie McMillian.

The park is already open to the public and being used by walkers, runners, bikers and skaters. The outer, paved loop makes a 1.2 mile course while the complete circuit on the double-helix path is 1.32 miles. The institute has planted more than 500 maple, cedar, dogwood, beech, tulip, oak, elm, cypress, ginkgo and linden trees in the park.

The double-helix sidewalks and park will eventually form a campus linking businesses and research laboratories spun off from HudsonAlpha.

"DNA day celebrates the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure and the sequencing of the human genome," HudsonAlpha educational coordinator Dr. Neil Lamb said Monday. "This year, we’ve brought both those concepts together with the creation of the Genome Walk, overlaying a set of genes from the human genome onto the double-helical paths of McMillian Park. It’s a wonderful way to explore some of the genetic players that regulate our growth, health and disease, all while enjoying the beauty of the park’s setting."

The public is invited to bring a sack lunch and roam the park at leisure, take part in a treasure hunt, or follow paths named for Alabama scientists to learn about the genes they studied. The hunt and genome walk will begin at 1 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m., Lamb will make a presentation on his top 10 biotech headlines, and institute Director Dr. Rick Myers will give a "state of the center" address at 3:30 p.m. Both presentations will be in the Jackson Center next door to HudsonAlpha.

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