Irvine, Calif., Feb. 28, 2013 — Arthur Lander, a recognized leader in the emerging field of systems biology whose research has helped identify underlying causes for some cancers and birth defects, has been named the Donald Bren Professor of Developmental & Cell Biology at UC Irvine.
The Bren Professors Endowment was established with a gift from Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Company, to help UC Irvine attract and retain the nation’s foremost scholars. Lander joins a distinguished group of faculty researchers, including two School of Biological Sciences colleagues, evolutionary biologist Francisco J. Ayala, a 2001 National Medal of Science honoree, and evolutionary biologist Michael Clegg, foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lander, 54, holds appointments in both developmental & cell biology and biomedical engineering at UC Irvine and is founding director of the campus’s Center for Complex Biological Systems. He chaired the Department of Developmental & Cell Biology from 2000 to 2007. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he earned a Ph.D. and an M.D. at UC San Francisco and joined the UC Irvine faculty in 1995.
“Arthur Lander is an exemplary, world-class leader in systems biology, and this endowment recognizes his success and continued dedication to understanding how complex cell interactions can lead to serious diseases and conditions,” said Albert Bennett, the Hana & Francisco J. Ayala Dean of UC Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences.
Lander and his laboratory team study how cells communicate with each other to coordinate the elaborate behaviors that underlie development and regeneration. The research helps explain why birth defects happen, how tissues control their size and how cancers grow. Lander helped identify the gene for Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a disabling, multisystem, genetic disease that affects one in 10,000 children and, with collaborators at UC Irvine, created animal models that are being used to find ways of preventing and treating it.
For more than a decade, he has also been an acknowledged pioneer in systems biology, an emerging field that exploits the tools of mathematics, engineering and computer science to examine how networks of molecules, cells, tissues and organs interact to ensure that biological systems function reliably.
In 2001, Lander founded UC Irvine’s Center for Complex Biological Systems, the first of its kind in California. Since then, the facility has helped UC Irvine garner more than $36 million in federal and private aid for research, education and outreach by teams of biologists, mathematicians, physical scientists and engineers. It’s currently among 15 National Centers for Systems Biology funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health.
“I am grateful to UC Irvine and the Bren Professors Endowment for giving me this exciting opportunity to continue and expand my efforts in research, teaching and community engagement,” Lander said. “I have found UC Irvine to be a great environment for doing crosscutting, interdisciplinary research, because the academic culture here really rewards openness and collaboration. The ease with which one can form a team of colleagues from different disciplines has been critical to my ability to work on some of the most complex and difficult biological problems out there.”
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