June 21, 2010
New brain research institute chooses home in bioscience park
The Lieber Institute for Brain Development, a neuroscience research institute dedicated to developing novel treatments, diagnostic tests and insights into disorders arising from abnormalities in brain development, has announced that it will establish a permanent research facility at the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins, next to the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore medical campus.
Officials of the institute say that its decision to locate there was based on Johns Hopkins’ position as one of the world’s premier centers for brain diseases and neuroscience research.
Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels said, “The Lieber Institute’s research team complements Hopkins’ own neuroscience researchers in this field very nicely, and together they will make significant inroads on this disabling disease.”
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley noted that the move “is further confirmation of the growth and importance of Maryland’s health care institutions and life-science industry as a major cluster and critical mass in the U.S.”
The focus of staff scientists at the institute will be on developing new and improved diagnostics and medical therapies to prevent and treat schizophrenia and related conditions. Although several U.S. private research foundations fund development of new therapies and diagnostics for various diseases, the Lieber Institute is one of the few to have its own research staff and facility.
The Lieber Institute staff plans to work closely with the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, founded in 2007 to bring together both basic and clinical neuroscientists from across the Johns Hopkins campuses. BSI, also located in the Science + Technology Park, has four of the top 25 most-cited neuroscientists in the United States and boasts an annual research budget of $120 million. It recently expanded to include a neurotranslation lab and development team, hired from the pharmaceutical industry to accelerate the development of new neuroscience-based drugs at Hopkins.
The Lieber Institute’s planned collaboration with the BSI will establish a Baltimore cluster for neuroscience collaboration in drug and diagnostic development. Solomon Snyder, former director of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, will become director of drug discovery while remaining a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“We’re honored to have this unique opportunity to pool our talents and resources in the fight against schizophrenia,” said Edward D. Miller, the Frances Watt Baker and Lenox D. Baker Jr. Dean of the School of Medicine and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
In seeking a permanent location, the Lieber Institute considered several states and academic institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Columbia University and Northwestern University. However, the Maryland Governor’s Office and Department of Business and Economic Development, Johns Hopkins University, East Baltimore Development Inc., Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Baltimore Development Corp., Abell Foundation and Forest City Science + Technology Group collaborated to recruit the move to Maryland.
The location also facilitates a partnership with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Daniel R. Weinberger, a renowned expert in schizophrenia research at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he is the director of the Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program, will coordinate projects with Lieber, and Ronald McKay, who leads a stem cell research program at the NIH and was among the first to show that stem cells may provide new cell therapies for degenerative diseases, will join the Lieber Institute as its director of basic science.
The Lieber Institute joins a growing cluster of institutional organizations and life science companies at the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins, including the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, several Johns Hopkins biotech companies (Biomarker Strategies, Iatrica and Champions Biotechnology), the preclinical contract research organization Sobran and laboratory services company Spectrum Biosciences.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder affecting 2.4 million Americans, striking young men in their late teens and early 20s and women in their 20s and early 30s, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with schizophrenia hear voices that others don’t, believe that others are broadcasting their thoughts to the world or become convinced that others are plotting to harm them. The causes of schizophrenia are unknown, and current treatments are focused on the treatment of the symptoms. Drug therapies can have serious side effects, and there is no cure. No adequate diagnostic test exists for the disease or its progression.