Hopkins creates eight new research centers

October 13, 2006|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun reporter

The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is setting up eight new research centers to attract scientists, win grants and probe medical issues that range from the effects of obesity to how our senses work.

Existing medical school departments will remain intact, but the centers will help doctors who treat patients and conduct research work more closely with geneticists, biologists, chemists and computer scientists who design and conduct long-term studies.

For years, clinical and basic researchers at medical schools have typically been housed separately. The new centers are intended to erase those borders, officials say.

"The idea is to bring like-minded people together, so they can work off each other's interests and expertise," said Dr. Stephen Desiderio, director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, which is establishing the centers.

The reorganization plan was based on two years of input from hundreds of Hopkins faculty members about how medical and scientific problems can be addressed across disciplines, he said.

Researchers hope the new centers also will help attract a shrinking pool of grant money from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies that are increasingly focused on practical research that can be translated into new drugs and therapies.

"It hasn't been lost on us that our goals are in alignment with the direction NIH is heading," Desiderio said.

There will be about 30 labs in the new centers, in the John G. Rangos Sr. Building, which is being constructed as part of the new $800 million Johns Hopkins biotechnology park planned for East Baltimore. The university broke ground on the building in April.

Desiderio anticipates hiring 16 new faculty members during the next five years to conduct research at the labs. Some of the centers have begun limited operations, and others will be started over the course of the next year, officials.

"At this point, what we're doing is meeting on a quarterly basis," said Paul Fuchs, a professor of otolaryngology who is executive director of the Center for Sensory Biology. The center will study how humans and animals use the five senses to process and interpret information.

There also are centers on drug addiction, obesity and metabolism, cell dynamics, epigenics, chemoprotection, transport biology and high throughput biology.

dennis.obrien@baltsun.com

For more information, go to www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ibbs/index.html.

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