Research institutes with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary study

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

A good place to look for inter-disciplinary opportunities is with institutes and organizations that specialize in scientific inter-disciplinary studies, whether its a mesh of biology and engineering, health and technology, or physics and neuroscience. These institutes and organizations are not only associated with prestigious universities or foundations, but are at the forefront of sponsoring inter-disciplinary research or of performing such research themselves. Below are a few of the most notable in the United States:

  • Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership – Part of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, OMOP is a public-private partnership designed to maintain and to improve drug safety. It’s currently conducting a two-year initiative to research methods that are feasible and useful to analyzing existing healthcare databases for safety and benefit issues of drugs already on the market. Specifically, OMOP is researching the feasibility and utility of using observational data to identify and evaluate associations between drugs and health-related conditions.
  • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard – The Broad Institute is unique in that it encompasses three types of organizational units: core member laboratories, programs and platforms. It brings together collaborators from different institutions to work on biomedical problems Areas of research focus at the Broad Institute include the molecular basis of disease, the biological circuits that underlie cellular responses, and discovering the mutations of different cancer types. The Institute also offer Diversity Initiatives, encouraging minority scientists to participate in several different research programs.
  • Institute for Systems Biology – The ISB in Seattle takes an inter-disciplinary approach to systems biology, integrating physics, medicine, mathematics and chemistry along with biology in its research. Systems biology studies the complex interaction of many levels of biological information to understand how they work together. Research interests of the Institute are health-oriented, as scientists work to find new ways to predict a patient’s susceptibility to a particular disease or develop more effective diagnoses and treatment for a variety of disease.
  • UCSF – California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences – QB3 focuses on the application of physics and engineering on biological systems, with an emphasis on bioeconomy and a larger societal impact. There are three entrepreneurs in residence at QB3 to help students, faculty, and staff commercialize their research. Current research themes include biological imaging, chemical biology, cellular dynamics, synthetic biology, and biomaterials & stem cells. QB3 also has several startups, that are hiring scientists and researchers interested in biotechnology and bioengineering.
  • Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute – This institute at Colgate University supports internal and external collaborations among faculty from disparate disciplines to investigate current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline, encouraging inter-disciplinary approaches to learning and to research. The Institute sponsors emerging research, and looks for new proposals and projects to support each year. Previously supported projects include “Sociogenomics of circadian rhythms and task behaviors in ants,” “Ecophysiological, Biochemical, and Molecular Mechanisms of Desiccation Tolerance in Ferns,” and “Synchronization of Networks of Neurons Using Josephson Junctions.”
  • Joint Photon Sciences Institute – A new joint Stony Brook UniversityBrookhaven National Laboratory initiative, JPSI serves as a center for development and application of the photon sciences and as a gateway for users of NSLS-II, the brightest synchrotron light source in the world. Photon sources have become incredibly important to a wide variety of fields, including physics, materials science, environmental research and biomedical research. Educating and training in synchrotron research, JPSI features junior and senior fellowship and sabbatical programs for scientists all over the world interested in fostering inter-disciplinary research.
  • Fralin Life Science Institute – An inter-disciplinary research center at Virginia Tech, the Fralin Life Science Institute is a research center devoted to bringing scientists from various disciplines together to solve biology’s most complex problems. Current research includes obesity, eukaryotic cell signaling, infectious diseases, and inflammation. The Institute offers fellowships each summer to Virginia Tech students to pursue life sciences research.

Each of these institutions are solving basic R&D challenges that can then be productized and translated into the clinic. Ultimately, the challenge of getting discoveries from bench to clinic is an ongoing challenge both for the biotech and pharma as well as for the universities and research institutes. The challenges stem not only from the difficulty in understanding the problems, but also from finding the right team to solve the problems and engineer solutions that can be scaleable and profitable. This requires many different stakeholders and expertise to come together in a collaborative environment, which is difficult to accomplish in a research setting.

We believe that the key to creating great research teams is to understand the interests and expertise of the members and combine them in a way that counteracts the inevitable hurdles ahead.


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