Bio-X: Integrating Fields of Research
The greatest challenges to human health lie at the intersection of traditionally separate fields. Stanford’s Bio-X program brings together scientists, engineers, and doctors from all over campus—and provides the resources they need to pursue nontraditional projects. Bio-X fellowships help graduate students break away from the usual single-field training. Seed funding helps faculty test high-risk, high-reward ideas, not only within the James H. Clark Center, but across the university.
Developing Personalized Medicine
Professor Stephen Quake developed the world’s fastest DNA sequencer. Physician Russ Altman is using this tool to customize medical treatment to patients’ genetic code. Quake (the Lee Otterson Professor of Engineering) and Altman (the Boston Scientific Professor) work together as co-chairs of the Department of Bioengineering, established in 2002 to create a fusion of engineering and life sciences. The department has added faculty, grad students, and an undergrad major. A state-of-the-art facility, to be shared with the Department of Chemical Engineering, is under construction.
Cutting Across Academic Boundaries
Doctoral student Melinda Cromie, PhD ’11, helped show muscle “sarcomeres” at work in the human body for the first time by developing a new kind of microscope system. That required a new kind of funding: the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship (SIGF). Awarded through Stanford’s Bio-X program, Melinda’s SIGF funding allowed her to work between labs in engineering, physics, and biology, collaborating with orthopedic surgeons. The resulting technology enables researchers to better understand motor control diseases such as stroke and cerebral palsy.
Cracking the Neural Code
Treatments for neurological and psychiatric disease are limited by our understanding of the brain’s inner workings. A new method promises profound advances. Stanford scientists are able to excite or silence specific brain cells in freely moving animals using light. “Optogenetics” was developed with help from seed funding through NeuroVentures, a new undertaking within Stanford’s Bio-X interdisciplinary biosciences program. Researchers in numerous fields are applying the technique, which could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s, depression, and other diseases.
Addressing Hepatitis B
About 1 million deaths occur annually from liver cancer or liver failure caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV)—even though an effective vaccine is available. Worldwide, 350 million people are chronically infected. The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University School of Medicine addresses the high incidence of HBV in Asians and Asian Americans through outreach and research. The center partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launching a global initiative targeting the countries that account for 76 percent of the global burden of HBV. Its advocacy helped make HBV screening and vaccination standard in the United States.
- Bio-X: Integrating Fields of ResearchThe Bio-X program brings together scientists, engineers, and doctors from all over campus.
- World’s Largest Stem Cell Research Building
The new Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building is devoted exclusively to stem cell research.
- Developing Personalized MedicineA patient’s genetic code is used to customize medical treatment.
- Cutting Across Academic BoundariesSIGF funding supports graduate students exploring multiple fields of study.
- Cracking the Neural CodeA pathbreaking new method advances the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disease.
- Addressing Hepatitis BThe Asian Liver Center addresses the high incidence of HBV in Asians and Asian Americans.
ABOUT THE INITIATIVE
Although progress in human health over the past century has been astonishing, progress in the coming decades requires marshaling expertise from a variety of disciplines and expediting the translation of discoveries from the laboratory to the point of treatment. These goals inspired Stanford’s Initiative on Human Health.
Surgeon Michael Longaker, the Deane P. and Louise Mitchell Professor, and psychologist Brian Wandell, the Isaac and Madeline Stein Family Professor, led planning for the initiative, which encompassed research and teaching on cancer, stem cells, neuroscience, the new Department of Bioengineering, and the central multidisciplinary incubator known as Bio-X.
Other accomplishments in health include the completion of the Lokey Stem Cell Research Building and the new Freidenrich Center for Translational Research. The new Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering Building will become the fourth and final structure in the new Science and Engineering Quad when it is completed in 2014.
These are just a few elements of the new infrastructure—facilities, research funding, and faculty appointments—that are now driving health, science, and medicine rapidly forward at Stanford.