The University Record, January 21, 2002

Life Sciences Initiative moves forward

By Karl Leif Bates
Life Sciences Public Relations

Personal care products, intended to represent societal influence over women’s sense of identity, are among the items on display at a new exhibition called BoundedSelf. (Photo courtesy Life Sciences, Values and Society Program.)
Life Sciences Institute Director Jack Dixon continues to lead planning, recruitment and development of the Institute while working with Interim President B. Joseph White to decide on the ultimate leadership structure for the $230 million effort. Among options being considered by Dixon and White are possible appointment of another co-director and naming a managing director to assist Dixon with the daily operations of the Institute when it opens in Fall 2003.

The realigned leadership is a response to Scott D. Emr’s recent decision not to serve as co-director with Dixon. Emr, a professor of biology, and cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, was chosen last year to co-direct U-M’s Institute with Dixon. He was scheduled to come to Michigan in July.

“I wrestled with it for the past two months,” Emr said in a statement. “However, in the end, my decision was based on both personal considerations, as well as the needs of my lab personnel.”

White said Emr’s decision won’t slow progress of the Institute or the campus-wide life sciences initiative. “The University remains committed to leadership in the life sciences, and sustaining the continuity and momentum of this initiative is one of the priorities of the interim administration.”

Both men said Emr’s decision was extremely difficult for him to make, and involved many conversations on the phone and in person in San Diego and Ann Arbor. Emr said former President Lee Bollinger’s resignation made him re-evaluate his decision to lead the institute, and in the final analysis, he thought it best for his career, his lab and his family to stay in Southern California.

“I still feel very strongly that this project will succeed, and that Michigan has the right people and the appropriate resources devoted to building a world-class Life Sciences Institute,” Emr said in his statement.

White said he’s excited about the Initiative’s futures. “I have tremendous confidence in Jack, in our faculty and in our ongoing ability to attract faculty of the highest quality. The prospects for our Life Science Initiative appear to me exceedingly bright.”

Interim President White points to several recent developments which show the Life Sciences Initiative is on track and moving ahead swiftly:

  • The Regents incorporated the Life Sciences Institute into their bylaws in December, giving it the same institutional standing and permanence as the Institute for Social Research.

  • Construction of the Institute facility is on schedule and within budget, with an expected completion date of Labor Day 2003. Construction also is proceeding apace on the Commons Building, and designs are being finalized for the Science Instruction Center. Site preparation has begun for the Medical School’s Biomedical Science Research Building, a 500,000 square-foot lab facility directly across the street from the Institute complex, where construction will begin this spring.

  • The pending sale of 55 acres of U-M land to Pfizer Global Research will yield $27 million in cash to enhance the University’s efforts in undergraduate life sciences education and the expansion of its programs in biology and biomedical engineering. Pfizer’s planned $800 million expansion furthers Ann Arbor’s reputation as a center of life sciences research and should strengthen the synergy of the two institutions.

  • The Life Sciences, Values and Society Program (LSVSP) continues to bring leading scholars to campus to discuss the life sciences revolution with the campus community. LSVSP also has been hosting more than 200 attendees every Sunday night at its Outreach Lecture Series. Upcoming topics in the series include aging, AIDS and stem cells.

  • Three new multidisciplinary courses in the life sciences are under way this academic year and have been well received by undergraduate students.

  • The state’s Life Sciences Corridor awarded $ 35.5 million in research and infrastructure grants to U-M scientists in Round I grants last year. U-M researchers have submitted nearly $56 million in preproposals for Round II corridor grants, which will be announced in June.

  • In November, Bollinger and White jointly appointed a progress and planning committee for the life sciences, to assess progress on the initiative since the Life Sciences Commission released its report three years ago, and to make recommendations for critical next steps. That committee is expected to report its findings in the spring.

    Additional developments and current news about the initiative can be found at the life sciences Web site,