HHD to Be Part of New Penn State Neuroscience Institute

February 22, 2005

(University Park, Pa) — The Penn State College of Health and Human Development will be part of a new institute in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences that is dedicated to teaching, research and service across the broad array of neuroscience-related disciplines — from molecular and cellular research to studies on human behavior.

The Neuroscience Institute will connect faculty and students across the University who are interested in studying the neurosciences. In addition to the College of Health and Human Development other Penn State colleges planning to participate in the Neuroscience Institute include the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Medicine and the Eberly College of Science.

The Neuroscience Institute will join the Biotechnology Institute and the Institute for Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics as part of the Huck Institutes.

“The Huck Institutes’ objective is to move forward in the life sciences by supporting the best and most innovative ideas and people, regardless of their academic home and discipline,” says Dr. Channa Reddy, director of the Huck Institutes. “While the Neuroscience Institute is now a virtual organization, the new Life Sciences Building-2, when completed, will connect neuroscientists in different disciplines and locations physically even as we connect them conceptually through the Huck Institutes.”

Dr. Bernhard Luscher, associate professor of biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology at University Park, will serve as an interim co-director of the cross-campus Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Thomas Uhde, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry and director of neuroscience research, patient care and outreach at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine, will also serve as a co-director.

Some of the neuroscience activities at University Park are now housed on the second floor of Life Sciences Building-1 where the Huck Institutes office is located. However, a new Life Sciences Building-2, which is being planned, will house neuroscience activities. The initial $40 million program budget provides for a building with 54,000 assignable square feet that will contain new research laboratories, multi-disciplinary core facilities and videoconference rooms.

Core facilities planned for the new building include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Biophotonics facilities. A new faculty member scheduled to join the bioengineering department this summer, Dr. Andrew Webb, is already working with Dr. Michael B. Smith, Hershey MRI research facility director, to set up an MRI facility for animal studies at University Park. The facility at Hershey handles both animal and human subjects. The Department of Psychology at University Park is working on an MRI facility for human imaging studies, and the Neuroscience Institute is also looking into partnering with Mount Nittany Medical Center, which also has an MRI facility for human studies.

Dr. Ahmed Heikal from the Department of Bioengineering and Dr. Steven Benkovic from the Department of Chemistry are taking the lead in building the Biophotonics facility, which will be housed in the basement of Life Sciences Building-2. The Biophotonics facility will aid research to identify and characterize protein-protein interaction networks.

In addition to the new building and core facilities, plans also call for 30 to 40 more neuroscience faculty members to be hired at the College of Medicine and at University Park over the next decade.

Dr. Karin Foley, associate dean for the Eberly College of Science, and Dr. Jay Moskowitz, vice dean for the research and graduate studies for the College of Medicine, presented a report to Dr. Eva J. Pell, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, on behalf of the University-wide Neuroscience Advisory Committee. The report contained the recommendation to create the Institute.

“The neurosciences are one of the most rapidly growing and challenging areas of the life sciences,” the report indicated. “They account for a substantial proportion of federal funding in biomedicine reflecting the considerable impact of neurological and psychiatric diseases on society. A substantial program in neuroscience research and education is essential for a major research university.”

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Editors: Dr. Reddy can be reached at ccr1@psu.edu; Dr. Luscher can be reached at bxl25@psu.edu; and Dr. Uhde can be reached at twu1@psu.edu. For additional information, please contact Barbara Hale in the Penn State Office of Science and Research Information at (814) 865-9481 or swh4@psu.edu.