$10 million gift from the Simons Foundation to support new initiative with Institute for Advanced Study

The Rockefeller University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, have established a joint initiative in biology supported by a $10 million gift from the Simons Foundation, a philanthropy established by mathematician and hedge fund manager James Simons, a trustee of The Rockefeller University, and his wife Marilyn. The initiative, which builds on the complementary strengths of the institute and the university, will involve biologists, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists exploring quantitative and theoretical approaches to biological problems.

To develop interactions and collaborations, the Institute for Advanced Study and Rockefeller will make joint appointments, including visiting professors and graduate and postdoctoral fellows, fund early stage high-risk projects and set up an annual joint conference as well as regular seminars, workshops and lectures.

“This unique initiative, which draws on the strength of both Rockefeller and the Institute for Advanced Study, will open new doors to studying complex biological problems,” says Paul Nurse, Rockefeller University’s president. “By combining techniques from several different scientific disciplines, the effort will be well positioned to make breakthroughs in how we understand key processes of life and disease.”

Rockefeller University’s Stanislas Leibler, head of the Laboratory of Living Matter at Rockefeller, has been appointed to a joint professorship as part of this initiative. Leibler is interested in the quantitative description of biological systems, both on cellular and population levels. He held academic appointments at the Research Center of Saclay, France, and Princeton University before joining Rockefeller University in 2001 as Gladys T. Perkin Professor. In 2003, he was appointed one of the first Tri-Institutional professors at Rockefeller, Weill Cornell Medical College and the Sloan-Kettering Institute. He also is a member of the university’s Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, which promotes experimental collaborations to study both the physical properties of biological systems and the application of physical techniques to the modeling of biological networks.

A series of annual conferences will be established as part of this initiative, to be named in honor of Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine and Rockefeller’s president from 1978 to 1990, and mathematician John von Neumann, a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1933 to 1957. Lederberg’s and von Neumann’s work on artificial intelligence, expert systems, self-reproduction and computational aspects of biological systems will serve as a model for this initiative to explore quantitative and theoretical approaches in biology.

Institute for Advanced Study

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