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What's Inside the IAST?

When members of the University community opened their invitations to the celebration of the Diana and Roy Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, they saw that some space is designated for to the Institute for Medicine and Engineering (IME) and the rest for a Center for Excellence in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

The IME is a structured institute with a director and staff on site, plus laboratories for some but not all of those who will interact with it as the Institute draws on and supports the work of three schools (SAS, SEAS and Medicine). Its immediate programming and some of its goals for the near future are summed up in an IME Newsletter being brought out in time for the November 10 opening of the IAST. As the IME's director, Dr. Peter F. Davies, says there, "Our mission is to stimulate fundamental research at the interface between biomedicine and the engineering/computational sciences that will lead to innovative applications in biomedical research and clinical practice. Thus the IME focus is interdisciplinary "molecular biomedical engineering," an unusual and rapidly developing area of research." He continues in the

From a huge range of possibilities, initial IME emphases are in cardio-vascular biology, engineering aspects of gene therapy, neuroengineering, and bioinformatics, the latter through the establishment in July of the new Center for Bioinformatics. Similar initiatives in biomaterials and tissue engineering are expected to develop into IME-associated Centers over the next two years. . . .

Following the arrival of the director from the University of Chicago, our first year has seen the recruitment of five outstanding core faculty (Cornell, SUNY Buffalo, MIT, UBC, CalTech); completion of four additional core faculty recruitments is expected by the Spring of `98 to create an approximate equal balance of IME appointments to SOM and SEAS departments. Four existing Penn faculty represent the core of the Center for Bioin-formatics. A capable administrative staff has also been hired.

During the start-up period since July '96 the six IME faculty have authored more than 50 full publications and made 55 international and national lectures or presentations. Current total research grant funding is $1.4 million with $4.0 million pending. Program grant applications are in development with NIH and NSF, and an initiative to the Whitaker Foundation is underway jointly with the department of Bioengineering.

There are regular interdisciplinary IME seminars (Tuesdays) and chalk talks (Fridays) that are well attended by faculty, postdocs, and students from a variety of backgrounds. Look out for them on the Web and in flyers.

Starting November, most IME activities will be centered in the first floor of the new Vagelos Laboratory building at 34th St. and Smith Walk. The labs are designed to facilitate research that integrates engineering approaches to cell and molecular biology/biochemistry, and include core facilities for tissue culture, molecular biology, radioisotopes, and optical imaging.

Membership of the IME has recently been extended to 15 Penn faculty from SEAS, SOM and SAS who are in active research collaborations with IME faculty. As we become more established, IME Membership will be extended to all faculty with relevant interdisciplinary interests.

We look forward to seeing you at IME events in 1998.

(The IME's website is, and those
who wish to subscribe to the newsletter can call 573-6813
or e-mail

Chemistry and Chemical Engineering's Role

By contrast, the three upper floors represent not so much a center as a "co-location of programs" from SAS Chemistry and SEAS Chemical Engineering that will encourage "the interactions across disciplinary lines that should produce increased excellence in both fields," as Dr. George Palladino of Chemistry put it. Chemical Engineering's Dr. Ray Gorte, who chairs his department, is among the SEAS faculty who will be in the new facility.

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, November 4, 1997, Volume 44, No. 11