Events Mark Opening of Biotech Center
NYS Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno
(left) and Congressman Michael McNulty joined President
Jackson at the ribbon-cutting.
Scientists at the forefront of emerging, innovative
biomedical research shared their discoveries at a symposium and
Presidential Colloquy held to mark the opening of Rensselaer’s
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies in early
The symposium included keynote speeches by three top
scientists in their fields: Shirley Tilghman, president of
Princeton University and a highly respected molecular
biologist; Troy Duster, professor of sociology at New York
University and Chancellor’s Professor at the University of
California, Berkeley; and Robert Langer, the Kenneth J.
Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Topics discussed during the Sept. 9 event included genomic
sequencing, regenerative medicine, enzymes in drug discovery,
and related research. Several Rensselaer faculty members and
invited guests also made presentations about their
Langer presented some of his team’s extraordinary
developments, including the case of a young victim with severe
burns on his chest who was healed with tissue grown from his
University of Virginia Professor of Chemistry and Pathology
Donald Hunt talked about the capabilities of new analytical
equipment made possible by the intersection of engineering and
life sciences. Using the new mass spectrometer, and a database
of peptide sequences, scientists can identify thousands of
phosphoproteins in a fraction of the time it used to take.
Scientists may someday be able to develop a vaccine that can
identify proteins secreted by diseased cells and stimulate
cells to produce their own destroying agents.
Capping the day’s activities was a poster session consisting
of more than 90 posters featuring some of the groundbreaking
work being conducted by graduate and undergraduate students at
Rensselaer, and a dinner featuring speaker Dr. Roderic
Pettigrew ’73, director of the National Institute of Biomedical
Imaging and Bioengineering.
Several of the nation’s top science policy makers and
researchers came together at Rensselaer the next day to discuss
“Opportunities at the Interface of Bioscience and
Bioengineering” at a Presidential Colloquy. The roundtable
discussion, moderated by President Shirley Ann Jackson, focused
on the risks and the rewards of research at the intersection of
the biosciences and bioengineering.
(l-r) Shirley Tilghman, Robert Langer,
and Troy Duster at the Biotechnology
Panelists spoke on the promise of the future of
biotechnology, including tissue regeneration using both
embryonic and adult stem cells, what can be achieved with the
information from the human genome project, and the challenge of
finding funding for pioneering research.
Panelists included Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the
National Institutes of Health; Bruce Alberts, president of the
National Academy of Sciences; William Wulf, president of the
National Academy of Engineering; Claire Fraser ’77, president
and director of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR);
James Mullen ’80, chief executive officer of Biogen Idec Inc.;
and William Haseltine, chairman and chief executive officer of
Human Genome Sciences Inc.
They discussed the importance of scientists as leaders in a
public debate on some of the potentially controversial issues,
and the need for more funding in basic research.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center followed the
colloquy. Participants included U.S. Representative Michael
McNulty, New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno,
and other leaders, representatives from economic development
agencies and Rensselaer.
“I’m not a scientist or a technician, but sometimes I can
recognize vision,” said McNulty. “I applaud what’s going to
happen in this building, in the fields of biology, physics,
engineering, computer technology — it will accrue to benefits
to the area, the state, the nation and the world.”
Originally published in
Rensselaer Magazine, Winter 2004