CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Aug. 15, 2001
UI establishes center, names director for comparative
The University of Iowa Department of Biological Sciences
in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has received a $700,000 grant
from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine to establish a Center
for Comparative Genomics beginning fall semester 2001.
Housed in the newly renovated "Old Biology Building,"
the center will be one of the first of its kind in the United States and will
establish the university as a leader in the new and emerging discipline of
comparative genomics, which involves studying the inter-relatedness of all
life forms. In addition, the center's director will be William Ballard, former
Pritzker Associate Curator of the Field Museum in Chicago and one of the preeminent
names in the field.
"The goal of the center is to establish the relationships
among the diverse life forms on the planet and the historical basis for this
diversity," said Jack Lilien, chair of the department of biological sciences.
"Research will focus on analysis of DNA sequences from many diverse organisms
to establish the commonalities and differences between them.
"Dr. Ballard is recognized as a leader in this field.
We welcome him to Iowa where he will coordinate the efforts of a variety of
researchers already working in the field," Lilien said.
In appreciation of the Carver grant, Vice President for
Research David J. Skorton said, "The University of Iowa is grateful to the
Carver Trust for recognizing the UI's research strength and for funding future
research in this dynamic area."
Current UI biology faculty who will be affiliated
with the center include Associate Professor Joseph Comeron, an expert in bioinformatics,
a new method of analyzing DNA to reveal the relationships between different
organisms. Also, Assistant Professor Debashish Bhattacharya currently uses
DNA sequences of algae to establish the origins of single-celled organisms.
Others expected to be part of the center are Associate
Professor Ming-Che Shih, Professor Jonathan Poulton, and Associate Professor
Chi-Lien Cheng, all of whom are studying the relationship among genes that
encode functionally similar proteins. The goal of their work is to determine
how a single gene becomes duplicated, ultimately coding for a family of proteins
with similar but different functions. Also, Professor Stephen Hendrix and
Assistant Professor Stephen Heard are studying how different animals and plants
that exist in the same environments co-exist, change and diversify in response
to changes in their physical and biological environments.
Lilien added that the department and the center are anxious
to establish interactions with other UI researchers interested in comparative
The Carver Trust grant for the Center for Comparative
Genomics was made through the UI Foundation, the preferred channel for private
contributions to all areas of the university. Foundation staff work with alumni
and friends to generate funds for scholarships, professorships, facilities
improvements, equipment purchases, research and other UI initiatives.