Gene Expert Leaves UW for Private Institute

Leroy Hood, chair of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology, announced Dec. 13 he is leaving the UW to form the Institute for Systems Biology, a private research center based in Seattle.

Leroy Hood

Leroy Hood. Photo by Davis Freeman.

He told the press he wants to set up an institute that will create new ways of pursuing and using biology. "In the past, biology had looked at an individual's genes. Now we'll study whole networks and systems," Hood said. He will launch the institute with a $5 million grant from an anonymous donor.

In press reports, Hood also said bureaucracy hampered his efforts at the UW—especially state restrictions on professors who do contracting and consulting work.

In submitting his resignation, Hood said the move allows him to complete more effectively what he began at the UW. He also emphasized his hope that the new institute and the University will enjoy a fruitful relationship of research collaboration.

"The University of Washington has given me an incredible opportunity to realize my dream of cross-disciplinary science through formation of the unique Department of Molecular Biotechnology," said Hood. "I see the Institute for Systems Biology as a special opportunity to extend this vision and, together with the University, to change how biology and medicine are practiced."

"Lee Hood brought vision, energy, and pioneering genius to a new interdisciplinary field at the University of Washington," said President Richard L. McCormick. "He has made a dramatic impact on the way we think about science in a research university setting, and his presence here has been transformative in that respect. Though we are sorry to see his time at the University come to an end, we look forward to a continuing relationship with Lee through future collaboration."

Hood was recruited to the UW in 1991 from the California Institute of Technology. At the same time, the UW launched its Department of Molecular Biotechnology with a $12 million gift from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates (see "Breaking the Code," Dec. 1992).

Under Hood's leadership, the department made significant contributions to the Human Genome Project, an international effort to analyze the structure of human DNA and determine the location and sequence of approximately 100,000 human genes.

Hood also was director of the UW's Center for Molecular Biotechnology, one of 25 Science and Technology Centers funded by the National Science Foundation. The center developed the first automated gene sequencer and has pioneered development of new techniques for analyzing proteins.

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