LSI nears move-in date, announces new faculty
The Life Sciences Institute (LSI) begins the new academic year with the start of a phased move-in to its new, 230,000-square-foot facility on Washtenaw Avenue and the announcement of four new faculty members.
Administrative staff will occupy the building starting in September, three years to the month after ground was broken. One or two labs each week will make the move through November.
By the end of the calendar year, LSI will be pursuing difficult scientific questions about how life works at the level of molecules and cells by applying a variety of scientific skills in a collaborative atmosphere.
The four new hires bring LSI's total faculty to nine so far. The group includes structural biologists, a geneticist, cell biologists, a pathologist and biochemists.
"This is an exciting time for the institute," Director Alan Saltiel says. "The building is dazzling, and the faculty represent a diverse group of creative, energetic scientists who will get this bold new venture off to a terrific start."
The newest faculty includes two recruits from other institutions and two distinguished U-M researchers. These scientists join Saltiel, David Ginsburg, Dan Klionsky, John Lowe and Rowena Matthews on the LSI faculty.
Once full, LSI expects to have 20-30 principal investigators and up to 350 total employees. The new additions are:
Kun-liang Guan, 40. Guan is a biological chemist who examines the critical reactions that regulate cell division, growth and differentiation. His studies focus on a class of enzymes that act as molecular switches to control a variety of activities in cells, crucial to understanding disease states like cancer, arthritis and diabetes. In 1998 Guan was recognized with a prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, more commonly known as a "genius grant." He joined the U-M faculty in Biological Chemistry in 1991.
Anuj Kumar, 34. Kumar is a systems biologist who surveys large numbers of genes and proteins, seeking a bigger picture of nature's operation. His model organism is the Baker's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-celled workhorse of cell biology that shares a remarkable number of features with higher organisms, including humans. "The yeast is actually a really good model for a single human cell," Kumar says. By identifying genes that are active at certain times in the yeast lifecycle and tracking the localization of their encoded proteins within the cell, Kumar has discovered 137 new genes in yeast and made important observations about their functions. He has just completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University and will be appointed in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.
Gabby Rudenko, 36. Rudenko is a biochemist who will join LSI in Spring 2004 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where she works in the lab of Johann Deisenhofera Nobel laureate and Howard Hughes investigator. Last year, she published a paper in the journal Science that describes the structure of the LDL (bad cholesterol) receptor, the result of six years of painstaking work on a difficult problem that could lead to new preventative strategies for heart disease. Her new work will focus on other receptor proteins, especially those that regulate the plasticity of the brain. She will be appointed in the Department of Pharmacology in the Medical School.
Zhaohui Xu, 36. Xu is a structural biologist in the Department of Biological Chemistry in the Medical School. He studies interesting proteins known as molecular chaperones, which help newly made proteins fold into the proper shape and reach their destinations within the cell. He came to U-M in 2000 as a biomedical scholar and currently is a Pew scholar.
The LSI is a new unit of the University that will house faculty from many academic departments. Its laboratory facility is designed to encourage teamwork and the cross-pollination of ideas. "Our vision of a unique multidisciplinary unit working together to solve important problems is beginning to take shape," Saltiel says.
In addition to the nine LSI investigators, several scientists from the Medical School will be housed temporarily in LSI lab space while they await the completion of the Biomedical Sciences Research Building in 2006. Their residence in LSI helps the Medical School with its current space jam and ensures that the new LSI is being used fully for higher efficiency.
The institute complex is a cornerstone of the University's campus-wide effort to retain its leadership in life sciences research and teaching. Adjacent to the institute, the Commons building will include offices for the new Bioinformatics Program, a small conference facility, and a food court to encourage contact and collaboration between students and faculty on the central and medical campuses. It will be open in March 2004. Construction also has begun on the adjacent Undergraduate Science Building with labs and offices for science education, which opens in fall 2005.