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Hood Leaves University of Washington to Establish Institute for Systems Biology

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EATTLE, Wash.--Leroy Hood, a biotechnology pioneer and expert in genomic research and large scale DNA sequencing, has left his position with the Department of Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Washington to start a private venture.

Hood’s new Institute for Systems Biology will start operations here this month and will employ several hundred researchers. About half the faculty will be biologists working to advance systems biology with research on animals, plants, and microbes. Others will specialize in disciplines such as chemistry and computer science.

Hood announced that his goal is "to establish a unique and powerful institute to achieve pioneering discoveries within the field of systems biology that can greatly advance preventative medicine."

An anonymous donor provided $5 million to fund the institute’s initial efforts. Collaborative agreements are underway with eight companies, and Hood is talking to Merck and Immunex about potential projects, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Hood said he expects funding from endowments, federal grants, foundation grants, industrial partners, and private donations.

A board of trustees includes George Rathman, former CEO of Amgen and ICOS, and Merck Research Laboratories’ executive vice president, Roger Perlmutter. On the institute’s scientific advisory board are Lee Hartwell, director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Sydney Brenner, a pioneer in molecular biology and genetics.

Hood told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he wants the Institute for Systems Biology to focus on long-term scientific problems, not just drug development, and wants to provide a model for how science should be done. Ethics and other social issues involving science will also be addressed, Hood said.

--Amy E. Nevala

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