Thursday, September 20, 2007
Carnegie Mellon Establishes Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology
Robert F. Murphy Appointed Director, First Ray and Stephanie Lane Chair
PITTSBURGH — Carnegie Mellon University announced today that it has received a $5 million gift from Ray and Stephanie Lane to establish the Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology. The gift will also endow a professorship and provide support for doctoral and post-doctoral training in this field. Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Professor Robert F. Murphy will direct the new center and has been appointed the first Ray and Stephanie Lane Professor of Computational Biology. The chair recognizes Murphy's exceptional leadership in computational biology research, education and administration.
"We are extremely pleased that the Lanes have supported these initiatives, which collectively provide critical momentum in our growth as a leader in life sciences research and education," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "Bob Murphy's work epitomizes our university's strength in cultivating scientific achievement at the intersection of disciplines, such as computer science and biology."
Raymond J. Lane, a Pittsburgh native and member of Carnegie Mellon's Board of Trustees, is general partner of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. He and his wife, Stephanie, are committed to supporting innovative work to combat and eventually cure cancer.
"Advancing research on devastating diseases like cancer is a key part of Bob's vision for his research group, so we are highly supportive of his pioneering methods in computational biology," the Lanes said.
The Ray and Stephanie Lane Center will build on the strong history of computational and interdisciplinary research at Carnegie Mellon. The center's research program seeks to expand the understanding of complex biological systems using machine-learning methods. One of the center's missions will be advancing the development of computational methods to improve cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment, especially by developing tools to enable automated creation of detailed, predictive models of a system's behavior.
"Bob has created a new field to advance the future of cancer research and studies of other major health disorders," said Richard D. McCullough, vice president of research at Carnegie Mellon. "His research enabled scientists around the world to analyze complex microscope images in an unbiased way for the first time. Before his work, biologists relied on their eyes to determine protein locations within cells. Bob's group demonstrated not only that automating this task was possible, but that an automated process outperforms the human eye in localizing proteins inside cells."
Knowing the exact location of a cancer-associated protein should ultimately advance the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, according to Murphy. In many cases today, pathologists can't accurately analyze biopsy slides to locate specific cancer-related proteins with certainty. This limits their ability to prescribe the most effective treatment.
"We believe that our tools could soon solve this kind of problem," said Murphy, who is also a professor of machine learning. "Our automated, unbiased methods could unequivocally identify alterations in protein locations that cause or reflect cancer. This information could enable a clinician to more accurately diagnose or more effectively treat a given patient."
Murphy's career growth has paralleled the availability of genome databases and the development of new biological data-collection methods and analytical approaches that comprise the broad set of activities called computational biology. He is among the scientific vanguard in devising advanced computational and theoretical approaches to automate generation of knowledge from this burgeoning amount of biological data. (See attached biography.)
In addition to his research, Murphy has provided strategic leadership and vision in developing undergraduate and graduate training in computational biology. Funding by the Lane Chair will strengthen Carnegie Mellon's ability to educate students interested in computational biology.
"We are eager to support Bob's leadership in education, which we believe is critical for creating a pipeline of talented computational biologists to address biomedical research questions in profoundly new ways," the Lanes said.
For more on the center and Murphy's research, visit http://lane.compbio.cmu.edu.