Incoming faculty and staff members at the University’s still-under construction Life Sciences Institute will soon be seeking the advice of internationally-renowned scientists and businessmen, who were named members of the institute’s external advisory board on Friday.

Shabina Khatri
A construction worker passes the edge of the nearly completed Life Sciences Institute.

The diverse list includes former LSI Director Jack Dixon, who left the University this summer to become the Health Sciences Dean for Scientific Affairs at the University of California at San Diego, and former Business School Dean and Interim University President B. Joseph White, who left Feb. 1 to serve as the managing director of Fred Alger Management Inc., a New York investment firm.

Also among the board members are Los Angeles-based neurosurgeon Keith Black, who discovered a protein that selectively exposes brain tumors to chemotherapy; Sir William Castell, a chief executive of Amersham, one of the world’s leading companies in disease treatment and diagnosis; and Peter Corr, the head of research and development for the Ann Arbor-based international pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.

The purpose of the advisory board will be to counsel faculty and staff on issues ranging from scientific research to business investments to ethics, LSI Managing Director Liz Barry said. But the board will not have any executive control over the institute, she added.

“We wanted to make a board that would be both extremely useful for both the institute and the University and at the same time be an interesting endeavor to the people who serve on the board,” Barry said. “All of that pointed to having people with a mixture of background and talents.”

The 15-member board will first meet in October to discuss issues and ideas pertaining to the institute, which is scheduled to first open its doors to faculty members in September.

“The collective wisdom of the board, I hope, will bring some external guidance to the program. Everybody should have one. … It’s a reality check,” said advisory board Chairman Ronnie Cresswell, the former vice president of Warner Lambert Co. “You are taking a group of very well-recognized scientists and you are letting them look at your program, and you are going to get comments from them and hopefully these comments will be helpful.”

Board member Randy Schekman, a University of California at Berkeley professor, said he expects to address the recruitment of new faculty members as one of the institute’s primary issues.

Schekman, a former president of the American Society for Cell Biology, said he hopes the institute will focus on hiring faculty who have just obtained their doctoral degrees and can make their first marks on the scientific community at the University.

“That’s where this institution should try to grow, is by hiring young faculty who are out looking for their first job,” Schekman said.

Though the institute has already named several of its faculty members, the full staff will not be in place for another five years, Barry said.

Schekman said he hopes he will help the institute take all the time it needs to find the best people. He added that the board will also be tackling other issues, such as how to help the institute build partnerships and bridges with other University departments.

“I think the major challenge now is to complete the building and to start the process of very carefully identifying areas for growth,” he said. “I am hopeful that the faculty at Michigan will take advantage of the members of the board and their expertise.”

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