Michael J. Friedlander, the Wilhelmina Robertson Professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and the director of Neuroscience Initiatives at the Baylor College of Medicine, has been named founding executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

The announcement was made by Virginia Tech Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee. Friedlander will assume his new position on June 1, 2010.

"Dr. Friedlander will provide outstanding leadership for the institute, with responsibility for development of a research strategy, recruitment of research teams, development of collaborative translational research programs, and partnership of the institute with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, existing Virginia Tech research programs, Carilion Clinic, and other research partners," said McNamee.

Friedlander was founding chair of neurobiology at the University of Alabama (UAB) at Birmingham School of Medicine, director of the Civitan International Research Center and of the UAB Mental Retardation Research Center, and the first Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute Professor before assuming his position at Baylor in 2005. He also is the founding chair of the Association of Medical School Neuroscience Department Chairs and has served nationally at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) on their task forces on the scientific foundations of future physicians, on the interactions of industry and medical education, and on the medical college admission test (MCAT) comprehensive review panel.

He completed his undergraduate degree in biology at Florida State University, received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in physiology and biophysics, and completed his National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia.

Friedlander has an international reputation for research in the area of neuroscience, including synaptic plasticity, brain development and traumatic brain injury. He has received more than 40 extramurally funded projects to support his research activities over the past several decades, currently serves on the editorial boards of four different scientific journals, and has held national and university leadership positions.

“I am extremely enthusiastic to take on this leadership role at this particular time in the history of biomedical science,” said Friedlander. “The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute offers an ideal environment to develop one of the nation’s premiere research initiatives to address some of the major health problems in Virginia and the United States. This initiative represents a unique collaboration between a leading research university and premiere healthcare system that, together, will build broad multi- and interdisciplinary biomedical and bio-behavioral research programs.”

"Dr. Friedlander’s internationally respected expertise in the area of neuroscience will provide an immediate strength in this targeted research area," said Dennis Dean, acting director of the research institute and director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech. "He also plans to recruit researchers within several areas of translational research, including neuroscience, cardiology, inflammation, cancer and infectious disease. The goal will be to develop a broad translational research portfolio to complement the School of Medicine and existing and emerging strengths at both Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. We are delighted to recruit a person having such a strong track record in medical research and education."

“The opportunity to mentor and teach students in the school of medicine and research institute drove the creation of the Virginia Tech Carilion partnership,” said Cynda Ann Johnson, founding dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Together we look forward to further developing our physician thought leaders through the medical education and research program.”

Carilion Chief Medical Officer Mark J. Werner said, "The mission of the research institute is to be a premier institute of interdisciplinary and translational research within the medical sciences; facilitate discovery-based medical education; and work to sustain and strengthen the Virginia Tech Carilion partnership, which allows Carilion Clinic to continually improve patient care through discovery and research."

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is the newest of six Virginia Tech institutes that support research and creative scholarship in strategically important areas, drawing upon the university's established strengths. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute focus on national research priorities, including translational health and medical research, national security, and safe infrastructure. The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, Fralin Life Science Institute, and the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment provide additional resources to develop opportunities at the intersection of engineering, science, and medicine; target infectious disease; and advance human development and the arts.

“The research programs in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute will apply molecular genetics, informatics, physiology and computational modeling with behavioral studies for understanding healthy bodies as well as the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools,” Friedlander said. “The institute will bring approximately 30 research teams of five to 15 members each to the Roanoke campus over the next five to seven years, resulting in a critical mass of investigators for accelerating the pace of scientific discovery in collaboration with physicians and scientists from Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech.

“We expect each of the research teams to be led by top biomedical scientists who have research grants from various federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and/or Department of Defense. Moreover, through the strong partnership with the new Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, all medical students will have opportunities for participating in research at the Institute as well as at Carilion Clinic or on the main Virginia Tech campus.

“What a great time to be a medical student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute,” Friedlander added. “These students will not only have the opportunity to be on the leading edge of one of the most innovative programs in medical education, but also to be active members of research programs, participating in the discovery process to contribute to better health not only for the patients they care for, but also for the greater good of all. I cannot wait to get the message out about the launch of this powerful new research program for innovation, discovery and better health through science to the people of Virginia as well as to our many colleagues in science and medicine throughout the country.”

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is located in Roanoke in a new biomedical health sciences campus adjacent to Carilion Clinic. The new facility, which will open in August, will house both the medical school and the research institute. The Commonwealth of Virginia supported the construction project.

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