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New BIO5 interim director plans to stress collaborative research

Citizen Staff Writer



The University of Arizona BIO5 Institute will continue to work to promote collaborative research and secure federal funding under new leadership announced Monday.

Dr. Fernando Martinez was named interim director of BIO5 effective Feb. 9.

He replaces Vicki Chandler, who will leave the BIO5 leadership post Feb. 13 to become chief program officer for science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in the San Francisco area.

Martinez is a leading researcher in childhood lung diseases and serves as director of the UA College of Medicine’s Arizona Respiratory Center.

He heads a $44 million National Institutes of Health study to see how environmental factors affect children’s health.

Martinez said BIO5, founded in 2001, must continue stressing the collaborative research that has made the institute a success.

BIO5 researchers from a variety of research disciplines, including agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, basic science and engineering, share ideas to find ways to treat disease, feed humanity and preserve livable environments.

“We are all aware that some of the challenges we have in biology means we will have to move toward larger and larger research groups, including going beyond individual universities,” he said.

“I cannot stress more how important collaborative research has become,” he said. “We need to do collaborative studies to tackle the very important challenges we have in biology today. Bio5 is exactly the way to do that.”

BIO5 must work through the state’s budget crisis that is slashing university spending.

Much of the institute’s research money is federal funding, coming from groups including the National Science Foundation and NIH, he said.

“We need to continue to be competitive to get those funds,” he said. “Those are funds that may help us compete and get through this very difficult budget period in our state.”

Outgoing director Chandler, who took the job in 2004, said BIO5 attracted more than 50 researchers to UA, along with $178 million for new research efforts here.

Chandler said she will continue her UA-based research projects and spend several days a month in Tucson.

Martinez said he was unsure when a permanent BIO5 director will be named, but said he is interested in the position.

“I’m taking this job because this puts us in the center of gravity in the study of biological sciences in the next decade,” he said.

Martinez and Chandler served as co-directors of BIO5 before Chandler took the top post.

He has been a member of the BIO5 faculty advisory committee for five years and came to UA in 1984 as a fellow before being hired for the faculty in 1987.

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