June 19, 2009


SUBJECT:    Institute for Genomic Medicine

I am pleased to announce the establishment of the Institute for Genomic Medicine, a new Health Sciences Organized Research Unit.

Advances in genomics and genetics in recent decades have provided a powerful new platform for biomedical and biological research, with the potential to transform clinical practice. The Institute for Genomic Medicine will serve as a center for multidisciplinary research, and will enhance graduate and post-graduate education, in this rapidly expanding field. In addition the Institute will help bring resources and recognition to the campus in support of genomic medicine.

Kang Zhang, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology, will serve as the first Director of the Institute. He earned his MD from the joint Harvard –MIT program, and his PhD in genetics from Harvard. Prior to joining UC San Diego he served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, the Cleveland Clinic, and University of Utah. His research focuses on the genetics of macular degeneration and on novel disease gene targets and therapies in macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

He will also chair the Executive Committee, composed of Prof. Zhang; Joseph Gleeson, MD, Associate Professor of Neurosciences and Pediatrics, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator; and Bruce Hamilton, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM).

The Institute will coalesce UC San Diego’s world-renowned strengths in basic science, disease biology, pharmacology, engineering, clinical research, and computer science to accelerate investigation and translation in genetics and genomic medicine, leading to improved human health. This comprehensive program will engage members of the campus and from the local research, biotechnology and pharmaceutical community, crossing traditional disciplines to create new opportunities for collaborative efforts with a genomics focus.

In addition to the executive board, core members of the Institute currently include Xiang-Dong Fu, Bing Ren and Gene Yeo of CMM; Christopher Glass and Richard Kolodner, Medicine/CMM; Terry Gaasterland of Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Trey Ideker, Medicine/Bioengineering; John Kelsoe, Psychiatry; Albert La Spada, Pediatrics/CMM; Daniel O’Connor and Ben Yu, Medicine; Miles Wilkinson, Reproductive Medicine; and Kun Zhang, Bioengineering. Engaging additional faculty from the School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will be a first focus of the Institute.

The Institute’s Advisory Committee, chaired by Dean for Scientific Affairs Gordon Gill, includes Joan Brown, Chair/Pharmacology; Shu Chien, Director/Institute of Engineering in Medicine; Donald Cleveland, Chair/CMM; Garbriel Haddad, Chair/Pediatrics; Lewis Judd, Chair/Psychiatry; Ken Kaushansky, Chair/Medicine; Steven Kay, Dean/Division of Biological Sciences; Susan Taylor, Chair/Health Sciences Research Council, and Palmer Taylor, Dean, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

One of the Institute’s initial endeavors was a day-long symposium sponsored in partnership with the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). The program, “Genome Frontiers in Human Health and Disease,” featured distinguished faculty from UC San Diego and JCVI, with Craig Venter and Geoff Rosenfeld providing the keynote speeches. The UCSD/JCVI symposium was a tremendous success, with an annual symposium and seminar series part of the strategic plan for the future.

The Institute for Genomic Medicine will galvanize our efforts in genetics and genomics, and ensure that UC San Diego remains at the forefront of basic and translational research, and clinical medicine.

David A. Brenner
Vice Chancellor -
Health Sciences
Dean, School of Medicine