Carnegie Mellon Establishes Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

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.

Contact:

Ken Walters                           
412-268-1151 
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ABOUT ROBERT MURPHY:
 
Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Robert F. Murphy is the Ray and Stephanie Lane Professor of Computational Biology at Carnegie Mellon University. He is among the scientific vanguard in devising advanced computational and theoretical approaches to automate generation of knowledge from large volumes of biological data.
 
Specifically, Murphy pioneered the field of location proteomics, a revolutionary approach that describes and relates the location of proteins within cells through computationally driven methods. This research uses subcellular location features (SLFs) to describe a protein's location in a cell image. SLFs measure both simple and complex aspects of proteins, such as shape, texture, edge qualities and contrast against background features. Like fingerprints, a protein's SLFs act as a unique set of identifiers. Using a set of established SLFs, Bob developed a computational strategy for automatically clustering, or grouping, proteins based on SLF similarities and differences.
 
Murphy's technology extends beyond today's lab-generated data. He has modified this tool so that it can analyze images from the biomedical literature, providing the first platform that should enable scientists to advance disease research by making true comparisons between their images and those generated and published by other research groups -- even years ago.
 
In addition to his research, Murphy has provided steady, strategic leadership and vision in developing undergraduate and graduate training in computational biology.  He has launched the careers of dozens of Ph.D. recipients and mentored over one hundred undergraduates. Funding by the Lane Chair will strengthen Carnegie Mellon's ability to educate this much-needed resource at a critical juncture in biomedical research.
 
With Murphy's leadership, Carnegie Mellon established one of the first, formal undergraduate degree programs in computational biology in the United States in 1987 and launched a master's degree program in this field in 1999. From 1999 to 2004, Murphy directed the Merck Computational Biology and Chemistry Program to provide undergraduate and graduate level training in computational biology. These efforts were an important precursor to his co-founding in 2005 of a joint doctoral program in computational biology with Ivet Bahar and the University of Pittsburgh. In 2005, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute recognized the potential of this program with a $1 million "Interfaces Initiative" grant, of which Murphy is the principal investigator.
 
Murphy came to Carnegie Mellon University in 1983 as an assistant professor of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science, where he was an original member of the Center for Fluorescence Research in Biomedical Sciences. His work, reflected in more than 140 peer-reviewed articles, is highly regarded by peers around the world. In 2003, Murphy became director (with Jelena Kovacevic) of the Center for Bioimage Informatics.
 
Murphy's research has been supported and honored in numerous ways. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 2005, NIH selected him as the first full-term chair of its new Biodata Management and Analysis (BDMA) Study Section. The BDMA committee reviews federal grant applications to manage, analyze and visualize biological data. This year, Murphy was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  He is the President-elect of the International Society for Analytical Cytology and serves on a number of journal and society advisory committees and boards.