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Dean's Message
Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP
Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP,
The John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean

In 1812, Davidge Hall was constructed for medical student instruction, and the medical school revolved around that single building for many years. As the campus grew over time, more buildings were added and the medical school morphed into the University of Maryland system. Today the University of Maryland, Baltimore comprises a 50-acre campus. Most of the growth, however, has been east toward downtown. But now, for the first time in nearly 200 years, the University of Maryland has crossed the great divide known as Martin Luther King Boulevard.

In January, the University of Maryland broke ground on a new biotechnology research development project called the UMB BioPark. The park will be situated on nearly five acres of unoccupied land west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and will contain 800,000 square feet of space for research labs, offices and parking. The university also plans to incorporate a business incubator and a collaboration center, which means that researchers from the schools of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry will work side-by-side with private biopharmaceutical and life sciences companies in the commercialization of bioscience innovations.

The BioPark’s first medical school occupants will be a team of 23 scientists from the American Red Cross who joined our faculty this summer. This is the largest single recruitment in the history of this medical school; it will result in more than $10 million additional annual NIH funding to the School of Medicine and the campus. The 15 fully-funded senior faculty members and eight junior faculty members will be supported by a staff of 60 laboratory workers and administrators.

Formerly known as the Discovery Research Group, the researchers come from the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences in Rockville, Maryland—the Red Cross’ primary research facility. The group, which includes experts in stem cell research, vascular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, and experimental pathology, will form the basis for a planned organized research center focusing on vascular and inflammatory diseases.

The research is focused on finding new treatments for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The capability to conduct stem cell research is but one of the many strengths the team will bring to the medical school. For example, biochemists on the team are investigating the proteins involved in blood clotting, in order to develop new treatments for hemophiliacs. Immunologists are exploring the immune response in transplantation and gene therapy, and vascular biologists in the group are studying angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, in an attempt to find ways to selectively compromise the blood supply in certain cancers. And this is just one of many exciting new tenants in the BioPark’s horizon.

The university partnered with the Poppleton community, which inhabits the land west of MLK Boulevard, to build support for this biotech park. The benefits to the community include the creation of more than 3,000 jobs, each averaging $45,000 in annual salary, and an increase in property values. In addition, the BioPark will include pedestrian walkways, green space, and shops, all of which are important quality of life issues.

It is my hope that this is only the first of many projects that reach across “the boulevard” and strengthen not only our research enterprise, but also our relationships with the community.

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