By: Rachel Shafer April 09, 2019
SoM leverages expertise, technology and fresh investment to form new, expanded department
Dean Sharon Anderson approved a proposal to combine two basic science departments in the OHSU School of Medicine to form a new, expanded department starting July 1.
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology will join together to leverage faculty specialties and technology.
The goal? Build a robust structural biology program at OHSU and enhance collaboration by co-locating the disciplines of biochemistry, chemical biology, structural biology and physiology to fuel discovery.
“This is a carefully considered change that will create a stronger entity than is possible with two separate departments,” said Dean Sharon Anderson. “OHSU will invest in this new department to leverage a natural synergy and create a vibrant community that enhances our research mission.”
New department, new investment
Chief Research Officer Peter Barr-Gillespie and Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furnstahl will join the school in supporting the new department.
- OHSU investment in proteomics and structural biology resources, including cryoEM
- Additional investments for the Center for Radiochemistry Research
- New investments in animal husbandry resources, recognizing the importance of systems physiology
- Investment in faculty FTE
No faculty or staff layoffs will result from the unified department nor will it impact graduate programs. The school will honor tenure arrangements for faculty in both departments. Faculty from each department will come together at a research retreat this month to determine practices and governance going forward and to name the new department.
Dr. Carsten Schultz to lead
“We are seizing an opportunity to integrate the ongoing development of chemical biology in Phys/Pharm with biochemistry and structural biology,” said Carsten Schultz, Ph.D., chair of physiology and pharmacology, OHSU School of Medicine, who will chair the new, expanded department. “Combined with the role of physiologists in applying findings in living biological systems, this new department will catalyze research across all disciplines. Most importantly, we need to build a critical mass in structural biology expertise. Without adequate structural biology, the research landscape at OHSU is not whole.”
Biochemistry essential to the school
Biochemistry is an essential discipline for a medical school. It cuts across many research areas, and is a core foundation of biomedical science. But the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology was in need of reinvigorating after declines in faculty and investment over several years.
Dean Sharon Anderson met with BMB faculty and convened a small work group charged with studying and collaboratively shaping a path forward.
- Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D., chair of molecular microbiology and immunology, OHSU School of Medicine
- Brian Druker, M.D. (lead), director, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
- Caroline Enns, Ph.D., professor of cell, developmental and cancer biology, OHSU School of Medicine
- Marc Freeman, Ph.D., director, Vollum Institute
- Susan Hayflick, M.D., chair of molecular and medical genetics, OHSU School of Medicine
The work group shared their findings which resulted in the merger proposal and leverages growing synergy between the BMB faculty and researchers in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Faculty from both departments gave input into the proposal before it was approved by Dean Anderson.
“The merger is a positive move towards revitalizing and synergizing historical research strengths of the two departments,” said Show-Ling Shyng, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, OHSU School of Medicine. “The recent growth in chemical biology in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and additional recruitment of new faculty with molecular and structural biology expertise will help modernize both departments under the new merged department.”
She added, “I see an unprecedented opportunity for individual faculty members to take advantage of the diversity of research strengths in the new combined department. We will have colleagues who know how to develop probing chemical and pharmacological tools and colleagues who know how to use the tools to study important biochemical, molecular biology and physiology questions, all under one roof to advance the biomedical research mission of our institution.
The merger will also offer new opportunities for faculty and department members to engage and contribute their talents and experiences to shape the future together. I am optimistic that with the commitment from the university we will see a re-energized group of dedicated researchers working together to ensure the future health of the new department.”
“First I want to credit Dr. Susan Hayflick for doing an outstanding job as interim chair of biochemistry and molecular biology while continuing to lead the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics,” said Dean Anderson. “I also want to give enormous credit to Dr. Carsten Schultz for stepping up to this expanded leadership role.”
She added, “I want to thank all the members of the work group and school research leaders Dr. Daniel Marks and Dr. Mary Heinricher for helping us identify the opportunity and move forward. Finally, I want to thank the faculty who responded to my offer to meet and discuss your thoughts, department administrators Kathryn Goforth and Amy Johnson and all those who met with the work group. The possibilities of this outcome are exciting.”
New name selected for combined basic science department
Faculty choose Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry
In April, the OHSU School of Medicine announced that the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology will join together to leverage faculty specialties and technology available at OHSU.
Faculty from both departments have now selected a new name for the combined department: Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry.
The union of the two departments is official July 1 but many activities have already merged.
The Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry, with 23 primary faculty, will significantly expand the structural biology program at OHSU and enhance collaboration by bringing the disciplines of biochemistry, chemical biology, structural biology and physiology under one roof.
Expanded investment in technology at OHSU including proteomics, cryoEM and the Center for Radiochemistry Research is expected to fuel discovery in the new department.
“The merger of biochemistry and molecular biology with physiology and pharmacology allows the new department to cover the full scope ranging from single molecules to intact organisms and patients,” explained the department’s chair Carsten Schultz, Ph.D. “The new term ‘Chemical Physiology’ describes the bandwidth of the research - with ‘Biochemistry’ as the bridging element.”
Dr. Schultz has installed an interim steering committee to represent each discipline within the department.
- Carsten Schultz, Ph.D., Chair
- Beth Habecker, Ph.D., for Physiology
- Tom Scanlan, Ph.D., for Chemical Biology
- Show-Ling Shyng, Ph.D., for Biochemistry
- Matt Thayer, Ph.D., for Structural Biology
The Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry will receive additional investment in faculty FTE and equipment to catalyze research across disciplines and to establish a broadened program in structural biology.