MAJOR ELEMENTS OF THE HEALTH SCIENCES INITIATIVE
By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
The new facilities slated for the east end of the UC Berkeley campus will combine biomedical and health sciences research, bringing together molecular biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, infectious disease and cancer experts, and public health specialists. Specific emphases include:
· Neuroscience -- The new Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute will be supported in part by $10 million in gifts from the estate of former tennis great Helen Wills, a $20 million gift from William Power, and an anonymous $10 million gift. Researchers will apply new technology, from gene chips to state-of-the-art brain imagers, to understanding the workings of the brain from the molecular level up to the macroscopic changes associated with disease. A $4 million-plus whole-body magnetic resonance imaging system -- the most powerful for pure research in the western U.S. -- will be delivered sometime next spring to allow psychologists and neuroscientists to study brain structure and function.
· Public health -- The School of Public Health approaches health problems by focusing on the interrelationship between biology, behavior and the environment. The major emphases in the school include infectious disease, epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health and toxicology, as well as behavioral programs, such as those involving maternal and child health. The school collaborates on a daily basis with physicians and researchers at the UC San Francisco and UC Davis medical schools.
· Immunology -- Scientists, including those in the Cancer Research Laboratory, are tackling a range of diseases from an immunological perspective. Research projects involve cancer and the development of new immune therapies; the creation of new vaccines; and studies of new and emerging infectious diseases.
A research building proposed for the site where Stanley Hall is now will house programs in molecular engineering and bioengineering, where engineers, chemists and physicists will work alongside molecular biologists and medical doctors. An anonymous donor has contributed $50 million to construction of this building, with an additional $10 million coming from Intel co-founder and chairman emeritus Gordon Moore. State funds total an additional $24 million. Specific emphases include:
· Chemistry -- The techniques of chemistry, particularly synthesis, can now be combined with the machinery of living cells to generate new properties and functions found neither in nature nor in the laboratory. Such methods can produce novel materials, sensors for chemical and biological materials and microorganisms designed for specific functions.
· Bioengineering -- Final details of a major grant are pending from The Whitaker Foundation to benefit UC Berkeley's new Department of Bioengineering. The new department brings together faculty working toward breakthroughs in biomedical imaging, artificial tissue and joints, bio-MEMs (micro-electromechanical systems) for drug delivery and other medical applications, and bioinformatics, new techniques for understanding the function of the human genome and developing ways to control and treat disease. The department will expand and focus education in the field and increase the number of Berkeley students enrolled in bioengineering to 400, an increase of more than 66 percent.
· Structural biology -- Chemists, physicists and biologists are working together to explore how molecules interact in the body, and how these interactions regulate the functioning and malfunctioning of cells. Such information is critical to understanding how drugs work. Scientists will use state-of-the-art crystallography and cryoelectron microscopy, as well as nuclear magnetic resonance and other tools.
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