UT, ORNL Partnership Forms Biology Institute (465)

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Cooperative research in biology between the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a boost under an agreement signed Thursday.

 Creation of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Biological Sciences was endorsed by UT President Joe Johnson; UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder; Jim Hall, manager of the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Operations; Alvin Trivelpiece, ORNL director and president of Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation, and Dave Reichle, associate director of ORNL Life Sciences and Environmental Technologies.

 “The UT-ORNL Joint Institute for the Biological Sciences is a significant advancement in a partnership that now spans 50 years,” Johnson said. “Working together as they will under the joint institute, UT and ORNL will achieve a synergy that is greater than simply the sum of their separate efforts.”

 Reichle said the wide range of potential research projects include genetics, computational biology, environmental systems, conservation, forensic sciences and biomedicine.

 “The Joint Institute for Biological Sciences signifies the importance that our two institutions place on partnerships that bring together the best of our assets to develop innovative solutions to challenging national problems,” Reichle said.

 Dr. Frank Harris, who heads UT-Knoxville’s Biology Consortium, said new standards and practices for cooperation created under the institute “will allow joint research to evolve more freely.”

 “Research opportunities of tomorrow are going to involve partnerships. No single institution has all the expertise, money and facilities to cover all the areas of biological research,” Harris said.

 “Often, by the time an opportunity is realized, it is too late to form the necessary partnerships. You must have an existing working relationship, ongoing dialogue, and the ability to move fast. This new arrangement allows us to do that.”

 Harris said a specific research target for the joint institute is conservation ecology in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Collaborations with the park and perhaps research institutions in North Carolina are being explored, he said.

 Other goals of the Joint Institute include:

 — Securing funding for collaborative research and facilities.

 — Serving as a research resource to private industry.

 — Offering education, training and on-the-job experience for undergraduates and graduates and continuing education for scientists, policy makers and physicians through programs such as UT’s Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the UT-ORNL Biomedical Graduate Program and the Life Science Graduate Programs.

 Recent UT-ORNL collaborations include a project last October that was the first to test pollution eating microbes outside of a laboratory.

 ORNL also supported UT’s Nancy Gore Hunger Chair of Excellence, which has been filled by Dr. Dan Simberloff, a Florida ecologist appointed in February.

 The University of Tennessee has programs in genetics, molecular biology, structural biology, ecology and evolutionary biology. UT’s Institute of Agriculture and College of Veterinary Medicine also supports a diverse array of research and extension.

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 Contact: Dr. Frank Harris (423-974-6841)