We are in an era of unprecedented discovery potential in the biological and biomedical sciences. This is a consequence of decades of basic research and is being driven by an array of powerful new techniques and sophisticated tools that allow for molecular level analysis and pinpoint genetic perturbation of organisms from microbes to humans. At the time the human genome was sequenced in the early 2000’s yielding our first comprehensive map of approximately 30,000 human genes, we did not anticipate the degree to which this library of information would transform biological discovery by marrying wet lab science with the formidable approaches of computational and information science. High throughput experiments that rely on robotics and the light speed manipulation of massive data sets are routine today. And tools developed from fields outside biology, such as micro-fluidics and X-ray diffraction, have become integral to basic biological research. Perhaps most importantly, life science has now become a fundamental driver of discovery in many fields once distant from biology. Engineers, mathematicians, statisticians, chemists, physicists and computer scientists currently work on problems that run the spectrum from basic biomedical discovery to the development of new treatments for disease. And this is expanding even further as we learn more about how our most devastating diseases are subject to the complex influences of our social and physical environment requiring that we look to social, public health and environmental research to address these critical human health challenges.
Now more than ever the integration of disciplinary approaches is moving forward our understanding of human health and disease. The University of Michigan is greatly advantaged in this highly collaborative and multidisciplinary research landscape because of its breadth of academic excellence, which includes world-class schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Engineering, Natural Resources and Public Health along with outstanding natural and physical science departments within LSA and free-standing institutes in Life Science and Social Research. While there are many examples of productive collaborations across disciplines at UM, our highly decentralized structure and traditionally defined departments limit our ability to take full advantage of our large investment in faculty and infrastructure in this vital domain of scholarship. And with reduced government and industry funding of biomedical research and intensifying international competition, it is imperative that we relentlessly innovate in our organizational structures and practices to best position the University to attract and retain top faculty, recruit outstanding students, and catalyze the highest impact discovery.