Regis Kelly appointed new executive director of QB3

By Wallace Ravven

Regis “Reg” B. Kelly, PhD, a distinguished neuroscientist and former executive vice chancellor of UCSF, has been appointed executive director of QB3, the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research.

QB3, a partnership between UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, was established to bring together the powerful quantitative tools of the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics to tackle complex biological problems.

Kelly will direct the institute at its headquarters on UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. He assumes the position July 1.

The announcement was made April 8 by J. Michael Bishop, MD, Chancellor of UCSF.

One of four California Institutes for Science and Innovation, QB3 combines state and private resources to support research critical to sustaining the state’s economic growth and competitiveness. Other institutes focus on telecommunications, information technology and nanotechnology.

Kelly began his academic career at UCSF in 1971 as an assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics. He served as chair of the department from 1995 to 2000. One of his major research efforts focused on proteins that allow neurotransmitters to be released quickly and efficiently from nerve terminals in the synapse. The proteins are involved in long term memory.

As executive vice chancellor of UCSF from October, 2001 until January 31, 2004, Kelly oversaw the UCSF research enterprise, which now totals about $465 million annually. Kelly also forged new research ties between the university and private industry.

Kelly becomes the second executive director of QB3.  The first executive director, Marvin Cassman, PhD, retired in December, 2003. Prior to his QB3 post, Cassman had been the director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the NIH. Graham Fleming, PhD, the Melvin Calvin Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and one of the three co-directors of QB3 since its inception, has been serving as QB3 acting executive director since January 1, 2004.

Most QB3 efforts involve intensely computational approaches to biomedical research. This is considered essential for rapid progress in genomics, in efforts to discern how proteins interact and to develop imaging systems capable of unprecedented resolution for diagnosis and treatment of disease.

## QB3 research projects are divided into four broad categories, each involving scientists from all three UC campuses. The fields are:

* Bioengineering and biotechnology
* Bioinformatics and computational biology
* Structural and chemical biology
* Experimental genomics, proteomics and biochemistry

A new building on the UCSF Mission Bay campus will house QB3 headquarters and facilitate a major expansion of UCSF’s QB3 faculty from 35 to 60. The new building—set for occupancy early in 2005—will house a state-of-the-art whole body MRI scanner and a comprehensive chemical synthesis and screening center that will bring the power of drug discovery to Northern California’s academic researchers. Projects already under way include development of new light microscopes that reach resolutions previously thought to be physically impossible; combining MRI imaging and spectroscopic analyses to allow precise mapping of chemical activity in tumors; and developing a systematic program to predict the folded structure of proteins and map all possible interactions between proteins and small molecules to speed the discovery of new drugs with lower side effects.

Much of the groundbreaking QB3 research at UC Berkeley will take place in the Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility, due to be completed in spring 2006. The new building will serve as a hub for research and teaching, and will include a 900-megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance facility, a Bio-Nanotechnology Center, instructional labs, and a multimedia center. Research topics include using synthetic biology to engineer cells for specific medical and environmental uses; employing micro- electromechanical systems to design precise and inexpensive drug delivery devices; and using mechanochemical proteins,  known as molecular motors, to understand disease and design hybrid nanodevices.

At UCSC, new QB3 Institute facilities now under construction next to the Baskin School of Engineering will provide space for new faculty and up to 50 staff, students, and postdoctoral researchers. QB3 at UCSC now comprises 25 faculty researchers and research scientists involved in a wide range of projects. Research in genomics is shedding light on gene expression and evolutionary processes. In the area of biomimetics, using technology to mimic biological systems, researchers are making connections between microelectronic devices and the nervous system. One goal of this biomimetics research is to develop innovative prosthetic devices for overcoming disabilities.

For more information, visit the QB3 web site: