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Yale launches new Biodesign Institute on West Campus


The University has announced the creation of the Biodesign Institute, which will leverage the expertise of biologists, engineers and researchers in other disciplines to explore how living and material systems operate at the nanoscale.

James E. Rothman, the Fergus F Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences and chair of the Department of Cell Biology at the School of Medicine, has been named director of the new Institute, to be located at West Campus. T. Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, will serve as deputy director.

“Engineers design systems from first principles, and do so on ever-smaller scales,” says Rothman. “Biologists are reverse engineers, and seek to deduce the design that nature provides. There is a profound intersection between these oppositely-oriented views that enriches both.”

The institute, to be housed in the B-24 Building at West Campus, will be home initially to laboratories of up to 10 newly hired research scientists. A faculty advisory committee will be appointed to help oversee the institute, which is expected to open in early 2012. Rothman and Vanderlick are also recruiting existing Yale faculty across a wide array of disciplines to conduct research at the institute.

The work will be diverse and focus on the creation of what Rothman calls “natural machines.” For instance, scientists there will help build nano-machines that can function inside living cells, produce new materials that can assist in tissue engineering, or even create DNA "robots’’ to carry out programmed tasks.

“The new institute embodies the mission of West Campus — to bring together scientists from diverse backgrounds to tackle fundamental issues in science,” said Scott Strobel, vice president for West Campus Planning and Program Development. “The institute will position Yale to be a world leader in several exciting areas, including the discovery and analysis of cellular nano-machines, synthetic biology, bio-inspired design of active materials and dynamic optical microscopy on the nanoscale.”

West Campus will host at least five cross-disciplinary institutes and three scientific technology core facilities. Acquired in 2007, the campus boasts 1.6 million square feet of research, office and warehouse space that provides opportunities to enhance the University’s science, medicine and engineering research and other academic programs.

The Biodesign Institute is hailed as an example of cross-disciplinary research efforts that are the hallmark of the campus and its institutes.

“Given the pervasiveness of engineering in medicine and the life sciences, we expect to play a critical role in most, if not all, of the institutes,” Vanderlick says. “Without question, the multidisciplinary incubators the institutes provide are the type of working environment in which engineers flourish.”


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