Starting a Medicine/Engineering Institute

The School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Science will establish a new Institute for Medicine and Engineering to bring together top researchers in medicine, computer science, biotechnology and the engineering sciences, Dean Gregory Farrington of SEAS and William N. Kelley of PennMed have announced.

The target date for its establishment is fall 1996, and it is to be housed on the first floor of the Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, now under construction at 34th Street and Smith Walk. Dr. Peter Davies, now a professor of pathology at the University of Chicago and director of the Specialized Center of Research in Atherosclerosis there, has been chosen to head the new institute. (See below.)

The institute will focus on interdisciplinary research of "fundamental importance to biomedicine," the Deans' joint announcement said, and they expect that "a graduate research program exploring technological issues in medicine will develop in concert with existing graduate programs, and that new faculty will be involved in the teaching of undergraduate courses." Some twenty new faculty will be hired to develop laboratory research and educational programs, the joint announcement added.

Dr. Farrington said he believes the new institute will be the first of its kind in the country. "We think that in the breadth of the initiative, we are certainly the boldest and we intend to be the best."

Dr. Kelley said the institute "fits in well with the Medical School's increasing emphasis on applying advances in biotechnology to the treatment of disease. "The School of Medicine has been at the forefront in exploring new therapies made possible by advances in biotechnology," he added. "It is only logical that we complement the resources of one of the country's top bioengineering programs to advance our work of mutual interest."

-- From a news release by Sandy Smith, News and Public Affairs

To Direct the Institute: Dr. Peter Davies of Chicago

The director chosen for the Institute for Medicine and Engineering is Dr. Peter F. Davies, a British scientist now at Chicago, whose multidisciplinary approach to his work once prompted Science News to entitle a story on it "Thicker than Water: Biochemistry blends with fluid dynamics to yield a vascular science."

Penn's tradition of encouraging interdisiciplinary research across the traditional boundaries between schools played a major role in his decision to come to the University, Dr. Davies said in conjunction with the deans' announcement (above). "Penn faculty from different disciplines interact with each other more than at other large universities," he explained. "This is an excellent university at which to direct an institution which is by definition interdisciplinary, and where the value of such research is appreciated."

A 1969 honors graduate of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he took his M.Sc. in biochemistry at Canada's University of Victoria in 1972 and his Ph.D. in experimental pathology at Cambridge University in 1975. After two postdoctoral fellowships--one at Cambridge in experimental pathology, and one at the University of Washington/Seattle in cellular pathology--Dr. Davies joined the Harvard Medical School as assistant professor of pathology in 1979. Three years later he was promoted to associate professor and concurrently named a visiting scientist at MIT. During the Boston phase of his career he also held appointments at Brigham and Women's Hospital, as associate pathologist (1979-81) and then as experimental pathologist (1981-88).

Dr. Davies moved to the University of Chicago in 1988 as professor of pathology, adding a secondary appointment in the department of medicine in 1993. Since 1992 he has been director of the NIH Specialized Center of Research in Atherosclerosis at Chicago, leading major research efforts in the molecular mechanisms of atherogenesis, a training program in cardiovascular pathophysiology and biochemistry, and conducting studies of endothelium in relation to atherosclerosis. He has also worked on plans to establish a biomedical engineering initiative at Chicago.

At 48, Dr. Davies has published some 85 full-length papers and 70 abstracts, and has made over a hundred presentations. He has served on eight editorial boards and on numerous national review committees and study sections, notably with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH, the American Heart Association, the National Science Foundation and NASA. He has also chaired the Gordon Conference (on Atherosclerosis in 1991), delivered the Vaishnav Lecture at Catholic University and the AHA's Spudich Lecture (among many others), and won awards ranging from the UK Science Research Council Cooperative Award in Pure Science to Chicago's Louis Block Fund Award and a recent NIH MERIT Award.

Dr. Davies also carries on a wide range of teaching and advising activities. In addition to being the organizer of seminars for the Special Center, he lectures in medical biology, cardiology and pathology and is course director in the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease. Currently he is also thesis advisor to two Ph.D. candidates (in pathology and in radiology) and a member of the thesis committees for three candidates (in pathology, immunology and biochemistry); and he has three postdoctoral/research fellows and two visiting faculty research fellows in his lab.


Tuesday, November 14, 1995
Volume 42 Number 12

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