New institute to advance biomedical research

Aug. 12, 2013, 10:56 p.m.

A recently established independent institute will draw on students and faculty from across the University with the goal of strengthening the foundations of biomedical research, according to the new initiative’s leaders.

The Institute for Chemical Biology will be led by an executive committee comprised of faculty from the schools of medicine, humanities and sciences and engineering, although the institute’s work may also include collaboration with other parts of the University.

“The executive committee of the institute was drawn from faculty across the three schools that are the primary stakeholders in the institute,” said Chaitan Khosla, professor of chemical engineering and the institute’s director.

The institute has launched two programs to support faculty to date, backing both a Medicinal Chemistry Knowledge Center – which aims to assist faculty in assimilating medicinal chemistry into their research — and a seed grant program that offers funding for faculty research.

“My goal here at Stanford is to drive programs forward,” said Mark Smith, a senior research scientist and the center’s director “This is an area that most universities don’t work in, but with the new Institute for Chemical Biology, we are hopefully going to enable that kind of progress to happen on campus.”

Smith framed the center as offering support for students and faculty through a range of mediums.

“It can be consultancy, but it can also be developing a strategy,” he said. “We’re bringing in certain equipment and technology to set up a lab so that people who want to get involved in medicinal chemistry will have a space on campus where they can join me.”

The institute allocated seed grants to three SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory research projects focusing on human physiology in May, and is currently accepting applications for another round of funding from projects that explore high-throughput biology.

In addition to supporting faculty research, the institute will also help graduate students from a range of technical majors develop a comprehensive understanding of chemical biology.

“We also hope to engage undergraduates before long,” Khosla added.

“The kind of scientist that we hope to develop is someone who is going to be quite versatile at both chemistry and biology, and perhaps even the medicine,” said James Chen, professor of chemical and systems biology and a member of the institute’s executive committee.

Khosla and Chen emphasized the institute’s potential for growth through both the addition of outside expertise and physical expansion.

“Our primary goal is to recruit faculty, in partnership with departments across these three schools, to Stanford who will transcend the mission of the institute,” Khosla said.

“The goal is to eventually have a new building…that would house the chemical biology community and the resources that are specific to them,” Chen said.

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