The University Record, July 23, 2001

States to direct bioinformatics program

By Sally Pobojewski
Health System Public Relations

David J. States has been selected by Allen S. Lichter, Medical School dean, to lead a new bioinformatics program for graduate education and research. Bioinformatics applies computational methods to biomedical and scientific research—especially in molecular biology and genomics.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities, States will be a professor of human genetics with tenure in the Medical School, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

“David possesses a rare combination of administrative experience, research expertise and a solid background in both the biological sciences and computer science,” Lichter says. “Private corporations and research universities are all competing for individuals with backgrounds in these areas. The fact that he chose to come here is a testament to the quality of the U-M’s reputation in biomedical research.”

States was director of the Institute for Biomedical Computing and an associate professor of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His research focuses on minor genetic variations and how they affect gene regulation and people’s response to infection or immune-related medical conditions.

“Bioinformatics is inherently multidisciplinary,” States says, “and the University of Michigan is strong in all the relevant areas—especially human genetics, cell biology, engineering and medicine. I was attracted by the opportunity to build a new bioinformatics program at a large research university. My five-year goal is to become one of the top-ranked bioinformatics graduate education and research programs in the country.”

States received his B.A. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1975 and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard in 1983. He completed his residency in internal medicine in 1986 at the University of California, San Diego. Before joining Washington University, States was a clinical associate for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a senior staff fellow at the NIH National Center for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C.

“We are delighted that David States will be heading the bioinformatics program at Michigan and joining the department,” says Thomas D. Gelehrter, professor and chair of human genetics. “His breadth of interests and expertise will greatly strengthen our efforts in genomics and the genetics of common complex diseases.”

The bioinformatics program was established in October 1998 with funding from the Health System and Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs. In September 1999, the program received $5 million from the Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Research Division of Warner-Lambert Co. (now Pfizer Global R&D). In December 1999, the program received $4 million in funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

States will recruit and hire four new junior faculty members and technical support staff for a new Bioinformatics Core Facility to assist research faculty and graduate students. Initially, the facility will be located in the Medical School, but it will move to the Commons Building adjacent to the Life Sciences Institute upon its completion in 2004. States also will direct the new graduate program in bio-informatics, which begins this fall.

“Eight students have been accepted. Six will pursue Ph.D. degrees, and two will be working toward master’s degrees,” says Michael A. Savageau, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology. Savageau served as interim director of the bioinformatics program and chaired the committee that developed the curriculum and initial courses for the graduate program.