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School of Medicine Appoints a Familiar Face to Newly Created Position of Associate Dean for Interdiciplinary Research

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

 Dr. Liggett’s research focuses on using genomics to more fully understand cardiopulmonary conditions.

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has appointed Stephen B. Liggett, M.D., as new associate dean for Interdisciplinary Research. Dr. Liggett is a professor of medicine and physiology and will retain the title of director of the Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program. In his new role as associate dean, Dr. Liggett will foster scientific collaboration between faculty members from throughout the institution in order to develop a broad range of interdisciplinary basic science and translational research, which will both broaden institutional basic research and lead to clinical applications for those basic science discoveries.

“A core mission of the University of Maryland School of Medicine is to directly affect human health by taking research discoveries from bench to bedside,” says Dean Reece, who is also vice president for Medical Affairs, University of  Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Dr. Liggett is an outstanding physician scientist with decades of experience in both basic and translational research. He will serve as a role model for his fellow faculty members as we work to expand our already strong interdisciplinary research program.”

In his new role, Dr. Liggett will work closely with Curt I. Civin, M.D., associate dean for research, and the school’s other senior leaders, including Bruce E. Jarrell, M.D.  professor of surgery and executive vice dean, to develop an infrastructure to foster growth in biomedical research and partnerships across disciplines.

“Dr. Liggett will also help integrate into the School of Medicine the new research centers as they transition from the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI),” says Dr. Civin, who is also professor of pediatrics and director of the University of Maryland Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. “We’re excited about the already expanding number of collaborations — including work on stem cell research projects — as the UMBI faculty members are joining the School of Medicine. All of our research programs will benefit greatly from Dr. Liggett’s years of experience in basic and translational research, highlighted by his expertise and accomplishments in genomics, where his discoveries promise new treatments based on a better fundamental understanding of diseases such as asthma.”

Dr. Liggett’s research focuses on using genomics to more fully understand cardiopulmonary conditions. He is particularly interested in personalized medicine, the idea that medical treatments and diagnoses can be tailored to individual patients based on variations in their genetic make-up or in the genes of the infectious organism. For instance, a study he published in the April 2009 edition of Science decoded the genomics of all known strains of the human rhinovirus for the first time. Dr. Liggett hopes the findings will lead to new treatments and a better understanding of lung complications from colds in vulnerable populations, such as those with asthma and emphysema.

Another study Dr. Liggett published in Nature Medicine in 2008 showed that a genetic variant is responsible for the different responses patients show to beta-blockers, drugs used in the treatment of congestive heart failure. The study is of particular importance to African-Americans, because they more frequently carry the genetic variant.

Dr. Liggett came to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2005. He directs a research team with National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding exceeding $10 million. He earned his medical degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine, pulmonary diseases and critical care medicine at Barnes Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Liggett has held faculty appointments at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Duke University School of Medicine.

“The composition of academic medical faculty and their talents have changed dramatically over the last few decades,” says Dr. Liggett. “We now see computer science, bioinformatics, engineering, molecular biology and genomics playing strong roles in basic and clinical research. Bridging the gaps separating these different disciplines has become a challenge, both in terms of promoting collaborations and in translating research findings to clinical purposes. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead of me in my new role and the opportunity to capitalize on all the interdisciplinary strengths of the School of Medicine faculty.”

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