- Published on Apr 19, 2007
Appointed last May by U-M President Lee C. Bollinger, the commission was charged with assessing the state of the life sciences at the University and recommending new directions and collaborations.
Noting at the time that "we seem to be entering an era of significant exploration of life," Bollinger added that the University "must be prepared to participate fully and preeminently in the exploration of this extraordinary advance of knowledge."
In announcing the release of the commission's report, Bollinger said that he, Provost Nancy Cantor and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Gilbert S. Omenn were "extremely pleased with the document." Bollinger said the report would be widely distributed and comment invited from the campus. "It is now our responsibility to bring this matter to the community for thorough discussion and analysis. In the weeks ahead, Nancy Cantor, Gil Omenn and I will meet with the appropriate academic units and organizations to discuss the report and its subject. We will also find other forums in which to invite involvement of the community."
The commission noted in its executive summary that "the field of life sciences holds extraordinary promise for the next century as it continues to push the frontiers of knowledge about every aspect of biological life.
"While biologists have come to understand many of the critical elements of life, they are far from understanding how these elements work together to produce growing, adapting, learning, living organisms. This progression from understanding the individual elements to elucidating the principles of interactions between them is the study of 'complexity' and serves as the central theme of the Michigan Life Sciences Initiative.
"The combination of theoretical and empirical approaches also defines the way to educate our students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, offering them a better understanding of the life sciences and preparing them for careers in this rapidly developing field."
The two cross-cutting initiatives proposed by the commission are:
? Biocomplexity Initiative.
? Biotechnology and Translational Research Initiative.
The three targeted initiatives are:
? Genomics and Complex Genetics Initiative.
? Chemical and Structural Biology Initiative.
? Cognitive Neuroscience Initiative.
These initiatives, the summary noted, "share the essential elements of investigating biological complexity; of having theoretical, empirical and translational aspects; and of linking multiple disciplines. They also represent research areas with great opportunities for rapid scientific progress."
Effective implementation of the initiatives, the commission noted, will require focusing on specific targets of opportunity in the near term and sustaining the effort over a prolonged period of time.
Other recommendations of the commission include:
? Creation of several institutes or centers that are cross-disciplinary and that can serve to link the life sciences community.
? Initiatives would be built around recruitment of outstanding life scientists to join the proposed institutes and life science departments, current faculty whose research interests are in the areas of the initiatives also could be selected.
Members of the institutes or centers would hold faculty appointments in academic departments, "enhancing the academic programs of these departments." Other mechanisms, such as sabbaticals designed to allow faculty to spend time in the new centers or institutes, also would serve to enhance interactions with existing departments and units.
In addition, because of the highly competitive life sciences environment, the commission recommends that the University make a concerted effort to retain current outstanding faculty as well as those recruited to take part in the new initiatives.