Culture of Collaboration
The key to UCSF’s research success is its trademark culture of collaboration. Scientists regularly reach across disciplines to gain insights and new strategies for understanding and treating disease – insights that would be elusive in laboratories focused only on a single research approach. Senior faculty scientists consider a collaborative spirit crucial in recruiting new colleagues, and many new faculty members cite this collaborative environment as the tipping point that led them to choose UCSF rather than other top-ranked research universities.
Researchers inspect Drosophila, more commonly known as fruit flies, under a microscope.
“For the last 35 years, strong research alliances and partnerships have been UCSF’s touchstone,” says Keith Yamamoto, PhD, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and executive vice dean of the School of Medicine. “The whole here is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Each of us knows that we do better science and we are better scientists because we are at UCSF.”
The priority on collaboration is reflected in numerous UCSF centers, institutes and departments that bring together basic scientists, clinical researchers and clinicians with diverse expertise to pursue problems using multidisciplinary strategy, according to Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, UCSF executive vice chancellor and provost who oversees the research and academic enterprises and also is a preeminent scientist.
A partnership of the School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, for example, has created the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Experts in understanding how drugs act in the body and how our genetic makeup affects drug effectiveness are working with bioengineers and molecular engineers to develop new drug delivery strategies, such as an implantable pump.
In other cross-campus collaborations, a team of scientists from the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine recently assessed a series of studies that led to the determination that smoking increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a finding that contradicts tobacco industry claims to the contrary. School of Dentistry researchers and stem cell scientists are studying the use of stem cells in regenerating dental tissues.
Development of the Mission Bay campus over the past few years has provided space for research programs to expand and to explore new partnership opportunities with industry and other academic institutions.
A number of innovative partnerships have already formed, including the November 2010 agreement between UCSF and Pfizer, Inc. that is designed to substantially reduce the time required to translate promising biomedical research into new medications and therapies.
“This is an excellent example of how we can fundamentally improve the process of translating research into better drugs by bringing all of the people involved to the same table,” says Bluestone, who also holds appointment as A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor in Metabolism and Endocrinology. “This partnership takes advantage of the expertise in both camps to create new ways to develop drugs that achieve their most important goal: improving patient health.”
Helping drive industry partnerships is the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, known as QB3 and headquartered on the UCSF Mission Bay campus. QB3 was conceived to bring basic and clinical scientists at three UC campuses — San Francisco, Berkeley and Santa Cruz-- together with their counterparts in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.