USM Regents Approve Restructuring of UMBI Centers
Action Expected to
Help Position State as Biosciences Leader
Frostburg, MD (June 19, 2009)-The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of
Regents today approved recommendations to align the University of Maryland
Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) centers with other USM institutions. The
restructuring is expected to pave the way for more multi-disciplinary and
collaborative research across the system and increase access to outside funding
for research. It also is expected to yield a higher level of technology
transfer, commercialization, and business start-ups, and thereby advance
economic development statewide.
The approval came this
morning at the board's annual meeting at Frostburg State University. The action
follows the recommendations of an ad hoc committee of regents appointed by
Board Chairman Clifford Kendall in February to review UMBI's mission and
organization as well as consider alternative organization options.
"After a comprehensive and
deliberative process, we have concluded that restructuring UMBI's assets is the
right thing to do," said Kendall, who also chaired the ad hoc committee. "With
a focus on collaboration-across disciplines and across institutions-and with
recognition of the exceptional talent within the UMBI community and the system's
other institutions, this action will position USM to take fuller advantage of
its system-wide strengths in the biosciences and to fuel the state's knowledge
economy even more."
Established in 1985, UMBI's
areas of research include biotechnology's application to human health, the
environment, agriculture, and protein engineering/structural biology.
The institute currently comprises four centers: Center for Advanced Research in
Biotechnology (CARB) in Rockville; Center for Biosystems Research (CBR) in
College Park; Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) in Baltimore; and the
Medical Biotechnology Center (MBC) in Baltimore. UMBI also includes the
Institute of Fluorescence (IOF) in Baltimore.
Following is a summary of the
recommendations approved by the board.
Establish a joint USM research center at CARB
facilities in Rockville. The
University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) will have administrative
responsibility and will work with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).
The joint center will build on UMCP's solid base in physics, engineering,
chemistry, and computational sciences as well as UMB's strengths in structural
biology, protein design, and new drug discovery.
Assign the resources of CBR to UMCP. This realignment will increase the level of
inter-institutional collaboration that is already occurring between the
university and CBR.
Establish a joint USM research center at the COMB
facility in Baltimore. The University
of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) will have administrative responsibility.
UMBC will collaborate with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental
Science and UMB, particularly UMB's Institute for Genome Sciences, to maximize
the existing research programs and develop new ones in the environmental and genomic
sciences. In addition, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will have a
role in the center.
Assign the resources of the Medical Biotechnology
Center to UMB. MBC is located on the
UMB campus, home of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and its
Institute for Human Virology. In addition, research here will be enhanced by
collaboration with the bioengineering and computational faculty at UMCP.
Assign the resources of the Institute of Fluorescence
to UMBC. IOF is located in the COMB
facility, which UMBC will administer. The institute already has strong
collaborations with UMBC faculty.
Assign the resources of UMBI's K-12 educational
programs to Towson University. Towson
is well known for its focus on preparing allied health professionals and
educators to teach in the STEM (science, technology, engineering,
Regents Norman Augustine,
Patricia Florestano, Michael Gill, Orlan Johnson, and Frank Kelly served on the
special committee. During the past few months, they reviewed the history and
structure of UMBI. They also solicited the views of individuals and groups,
including UMBI administrators, faculty, staff, and graduate students; members
of the UMBI Board of Visitors; external scientists and administrators from
higher education and government; and representatives from business and economic
As a result of their
comprehensive review, the committee found that "the organization of UMBI as a
geographically dispersed, free-standing entity has created intractable
problems." These include the lack of scale of UMBI programs, isolation among
UMBI's research centers, lack of a critical mass of graduate and undergraduate
students involved in UMBI research, and administrative inefficiencies.
In April, the committee asked
USM institutions to propose "transformative uses of UMBI's assets" and explain
how the proposals would incorporate collaboration with other USM institutions,
government agencies, and the biotechnology industry. The recommendations
approved today build on what the committee concluded were the proposals' most
promising elements and the advice of expert evaluators.
"The Board of Regents is very
mindful of its responsibility to help UMBI employees during this time and we
are directing Chancellor Kirwan to establish a process to help staff through
the transition," said Kendall. USM will honor the tenure held by UMBI faculty
members, and it is expected that administrative support staff will have the
opportunity to remain in their positions through FY 2010. In addition, USM will
engage all institutions in efforts to find employment opportunities as
The board also has charged
Kirwan to work with the UMBI center directors and the appropriate institutional
presidents on memoranda of understanding (MOUs) outlining details of the future
operations and collaborations. The chancellor will present the MOUs to the
board by December 31, 2009, with the goal of completing final transactions by
the end of fiscal year 2010.
"Today's decisions by the
board provide a tremendous opportunity for the University System of Maryland to
increase the volume and impact of its basic and applied research in the
biosciences," said USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan. "This restructuring has
the potential to double the research productivity of UMBI's current assets
within five years. (UMBI currently generates some $25 million in research
activity annually.) Once these assets are joined with activities system-wide,
USM will play an even greater role in positioning the State of Maryland as a
national and international leader in the biosciences."
Click HERE to access the committee's full report.
Contact: Anne Moultrie