In my first post, I wrote about the start of the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which launched in fall 2007. Here, I’ll give more background about our location in the middle of a BioPark in downtown Baltimore.
The academic research center as a work environment
IGS is located in the center of a 61-acre research and technology complex. The complex is adjacent to the University of Maryland’s seven professional and graduate schools, which have a mission to train future physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, social workers, and pharmacists. World-class centers for virology, vaccine, stem cell and autoimmune disease research are within a few blocks of each other.
A major advantage of being part of the medical school is the ability to collaborate with other medical researchers who can provide ready access to patient samples. In the early years of genome research, simply identifying sequences was an end goal. Today, genomic tools are increasingly applied to biological questions to create new dynamics for understanding individual differences in our susceptibility to disease, studying the role of our bodies’ microorganisms in our health, and exploring new personalized therapeutics.
Before “personalized medicine” becomes a reality in the physician’s office, we can expect years of collaborative research, and IGS has joint grants with almost all of the professional schools nearby. Here is a short video where some of our faculty discuss their collaborations with others on campus.
As part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, IGS is a state institution, with salaries and benefits following state guidelines. The tuition remission package can be a generous benefit to those employees pursuing advanced degrees or for the families and spouses of employees. The healthcare and leave packages also tend to be very generous compared with private industry.
The faculty at IGS have academic faculty appointments at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In addition to their scientific grant research, IGS investigators participate in teaching the next generation of physicians and young scientists about the dynamic fields of genomics and bioinformatics, and how to apply these tools to global health issues. Their faculty appointments within the departments of Medicine, Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Microbiology & Immunology, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology not only fosters new dialogue between the IGS scientists and medical students, but also between IGS scientists and the clinical experts and their key departments on campus. The regular informal departmental discussions are spurring new biomedical approaches and nontraditional collaborations.
For the IGS investigators who once worked within a self-standing genome center, their interactions with the researchers and clinicians at the medical school and the other professional schools on campus are helping them bring their genomic research into a new biomedical, interdisciplinary future.