Provost announces Division of Biomedical Sciences

A Message From the Provost

Dear Colleague,

One important purpose of strategic planning is to bring together the full potential of existing and emerging resources. For example, Illinois has invested significantly over the past several years in faculty with considerable strengths in biomedical science. We have not, however, had in place an infrastructure developed to maximize the cumulative research and teaching power of this group. Now we are moving toward the creation of a Division of Biomedical Sciences that will help us tap effectively resources dispersed across the campus and unify those resources to provide a single, coherent biomedical interface with external constituencies. Many researchers engaged in biomedical research on our campus will benefit from this new division, which will consolidate resources on campus and link our research much more effectively to external partners.

Linda Katehi

Division of Biomedical Sciences

A key element of the campus strategic plan is to capture the tremendous creativity and expertise of the campus research community to develop solutions and new knowledge to improve human health.

A large number of faculty members in units across the campus have developed very productive biomedical research programs with goals ranging from understanding disease processes, developing novel therapies or diagnostic tools or understanding the behavioral and social factors that impact our health. This research expertise represents a sizeable distributed investment by the campus during the past decade. However, the corresponding infrastructure to support biomedical research and to build synergistic team approaches to tackle outstanding problems in health has lagged. Assistance is required to address the complex regulatory environment surrounding biomedical research, negotiate partnerships with health centers and coordinate the development and submission of large multi-investigator, multi-institution research proposals.

How to facilitate this type of research was examined by three committees during the last few years. Reports of their recommendations can be found on the websites of the Vice Chancellor for Research Office and the Provost Office. A common theme found in each committee report was a recommendation for the creation of a coordinating office to leverage the expertise spread across the campus and address the complexities of research in the biomedical domain. The responsibilities of such an office were outlined in the most recent report co-authored by Professors David Kranz, James Slauch, Jodi Flaws and Lawrence Schook (Chair). Their report made a compelling argument for the creation of a Division of Biomedical Sciences, which I intend to establish in August at the start of the new academic year.

The Division of Biomedical Sciences will provide a single portal for internal and external communications and the vision and infrastructure to translate Illinois' strengths in basic sciences and engineering into innovative solutions to issues impacting human health and our communities. Essential to this mission is the establishment of an integrated and efficient infrastructure that will enable human-centric research, capture new research opportunities and expand international visibility of our translational research. This will be achieved through robust affiliations with internal departments and units and external partners like the University of Illinois Chicago and Carle Foundation Hospital.

Professor Lawrence Schook has agreed to continue his leadership of this initiative when the Division is launched this summer by becoming the inaugural director of the division. Professor Schook, holds the Gutgsell Endowed Chair and is currently Professor of Animal Sciences, Pathobiology, Nutritional Sciences and Pathology and Surgical Oncology in the College of Medicine. He serves as the Theme Leader for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering at the Institute for Genomic Biology. I am positive that the Division will flourish under his leadership.

Currently, a planning team, consisting of Dean Wynne Korr and Professors Rashid Bashir, Gene Robinson, Sharon Donovan, Neil Kelleher, and Stephen Sligar, is working with Dr. Schook to develop a detailed implementation plan by July 15, 2008. This group will obtain input from a larger group of campus stakeholders to clarify how the Division will be governed, describe the process of selecting and evaluating the thematic research thrusts, outline the unit's service offerings, define the Division's methods to engage faculty affiliates, and determine mechanisms to fund the unit once it is established.

I would also like to express my appreciation to Jennifer Eardley, from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, who has helped to organize and support both the initial committee and the planning team.

The Division of Biomedical Science is central to achieving our strategic goal of Breakthrough Knowledge and Innovation. Scientific breakthroughs that enhance human health are vital to the advancement of our society. The Division will provide an organizational structure that facilitates research in this arena and position Illinois in a leadership role on the national level. I hope you will work with us to ensure the success of the Division.