UW Today

This is an archived article.

December 13, 1999

Leroy Hood leaving University of Washington to establish private institute

University of Washington Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, today announced that Dr. Leroy Hood, chairman of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and William Gates III Professor of Biomedical Sciences, is leaving the UW faculty to form a private Institute for Systems Biology.

“Dr. Hood has decided that he wants to move on to pursue research interests that fit better in a private setting,” said Ramsey. “We will long benefit from his accomplishments in founding a world-class Department of Molecular Biotechnology and recruiting a number of outstanding faculty to the University of Washington. Under Lee?s leadership, many exciting programs of research and public outreach in science education have taken shape.”

In submitting his resignation, Hood signaled his intention to establish a private institute for systems biology — a move he sees as allowing 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.

“Lee Hood brought vision, energy, and pioneering genius to a new interdisciplinary field at the University of Washington,” said UW 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.”

“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.”

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Background on Dr. Leroy Hood and the Department of Molecular Biotechnology

Dr. Leroy (Lee) Hood was recruited to the UW in 1991 from the California Institute of Technology.

The Department of Molecular Biotechnology was founded in 1991 with a $12 million gift from Bill Gates. It is committed to the development and application of new and leading-edge tools to explore problems at the frontiers of biology and medicine. This unique department brings together scientists in mathematics, chemistry, engineering and computer science with those in biology and medicine to develop new tools to further basic biological research at the molecular level.

Under Hood?s leadership, the department made significant contributions to the Human Genome Project, a major international effort to analyze the structure of human DNA and determine the location and sequence of the estimated 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.

A native of Montana, Hood, 61, has an M.D. from the Johns Hopkins Medical School and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. Among his many awards are the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for studies of immune diversity, the Louis Pasteur Award for Medical Innovation and the 3M Life Sciences Award. He holds several honorary degrees.

Hood’s research interests have focused on molecular immunology and biotechnology. His former UW laboratory has played a major role in developing automated microchemical instrumentation for the sequence analysis of proteins and DNA and the synthesis of peptides and gene fragments. More recently, he has applied his laboratory’s expertise in large-scale DNA mapping and sequencing to the analysis of the human and mouse T-cell receptor loci — an important effort of the Human Genome Project. His laboratory is also interested in the study of autoimmune diseases and new approaches to cancer biology.