1. Following the Science

    June 16, 2015

    Today we launched our search to hire a new director of the Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at the University of Michigan.

    The LSI has established a remarkable record of achievement since its creation in 1999. LSI scientists have conducted research – much of it landmark – in a broad range of disciplines including genetics, chemistry, biology, computation, and medicine. The convergence of disciplines and collaborative research that thrive at the institute represents the future of scientific discovery and is essential to U-M and to the world at large.

    The institute’s mission is to “improve human health through collaborative scientific discovery.” It’s an ingeniously simple focus that explicitly connects our scientific mission with our commitment to making a public impact with our research enterprise.

    The LSI’s faculty and staff have relentlessly pursued this mission, guided by steadfast commitments to academic excellence and to “follow the science.”

    These commitments were exemplified for the last 13 years by outgoing LSI director Alan Saltiel, an outstanding research who studies sugar metabolism and diabetes. He announced his departure in April, following a spectacular tenure in the position.

    Dr. Saltiel recruited world-class faculty to the LSI and each one holds an appointment in one of our schools and colleges, where they teach, mentor students and collaborate with colleagues. Over the years, their work has resulted in an impressive array of discoveries that are reshaping our understanding of life itself.

    Under his leadership, LSI has created thriving centers that make expensive and complex technologies in structural biology, chemical genomics and stem cell science available to researchers across campus and help our biosciences faculty conduct research leading to groundbreaking treatments for disease through the novel Center for the Discovery of New Medicines.

    I very much appreciate Dr. Saltiel’s tremendous work. He has accepted a new post at the University of California, San Diego, and I wish him all the best. Steve Weiss, a member of the LSI faculty and Professor of Internal Medicine will serve as Interim Director of the LSI, and David Ginsburg, also a member of the LSI faculty and Professor of Human Genetics, is chairing the search for the next director.

    Dr. Saltiel leaves us in a position of great strength. I am excited to help build on U-M’s legacy in scientific discovery and cross-disciplinary research.

    Last fall, I charged the Advisory Panel on the Biosciences, chaired by Provost Martha Pollack, to generate bold ideas for how Michigan biosciences could be more than the sum of our parts. The panel includes some of U-M’s leading scientists, and they have been hard at work over the past year assessing our strengths and limitations, looking at models like the LSI and other organizational innovations both inside and outside U-M and considering new strategies for moving us forward. They are finalizing their report, which I am looking forward to considering and discussing with university leaders.

    There are few universities in the world that can match our breadth and depth of excellence across disciplines. We have the intellectual resources – incredible faculty and student talent – to attack society’s biggest problems and achieve new levels of knowledge.