Cambridge University Reporter

Report of the General Board on the establishment of a Professorship of Systems Biology and Biochemistry

The GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. In the past fifty years the discipline of Biochemistry has been largely reductionist in its focus, defining individual signalling and metabolic pathways that are important in living organisms, as well as the molecules and multicomponent assemblies that mediate the cellular activities. The definition of the complete genome sequence of many organisms, and the development of methods to define functions and interactions between the gene products using both bioinformatic and experimental techniques, opens up the possibility of a complete understanding of the cell. The task is to integrate the results from a range of high-throughput analytical techniques into a complete model of the cell that will allow a systems approach. Such systems approaches will not only be essential to basic understanding of life processes but will also be critical to progress in therapeutic intervention in disease processes.

2. The Department of Biochemistry has been an international leader in understanding the molecular basis of living systems. It has expertise in a broad range of cell, structural, and molecular biology key to understanding both healthy cells and diseased processes that characterize cancer and cardiovascular disorders, as well as pathogenesis due to infectious agents. It has spun out successful companies that are addressing the molecular basis of drug discovery. A major emphasis in recent years has been in developing methods for analysis of cellular processes including informatics, proteomics, and metabolomics. It has collaborated with others in Cambridge, in particular researchers of the Departments of Genetics, Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, and Plant Sciences to provide a comprehensive expertise in high-throughput analytic techniques, and has begun to establish collaborations with engineers and mathematicians in the Schools of Technology and Physical Sciences to develop models. The Department has identified an urgent need, however, to recruit a researcher at professorial level with a focus on a systems approach to the cell and molecular biochemistry of model organisms, pathogens, or human cells, in order to provide leadership in this area. Such a development will be central to the future strength and competitiveness of Biochemistry in Cambridge and synergistic with developments elsewhere in the University.

3. The Professorship of Molecular Enzymology which was established for Professor Peter Francis Leadlay by Grace 11 of 15 December 1999 will lapse following his appointment to the Herchel Smith Professorship of Biochemistry, and this will release an underlying University Lectureship from abeyance. The Council of the School of the Biological Sciences have recommended the establishment of a Professorship of Systems Biology and Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry for a single tenure and, to fund the new Professorship, they have proposed to the General Board that the University Lectureship should again be placed in abeyance; the additional cost will be met by funding identified within the existing recurrent allocation to the School of the Biological Sciences. The Department of Biochemistry have confirmed that suitable accommodation is available for the new Professor and that no additional facilities will be required to support recruitment.

4. The General Board accordingly propose that a Professorship of Systems Biology and Biochemistry be established in the University and assigned to the Department of Biochemistry. The Board propose that the election to the Professorship should be made by an ad hoc Board of Electors and that candidature should be open without limitation or preference to all persons whose work falls within the general field of the title of the office.

5. The General Board recommend:

That a Professorship of Systems Biology and Biochemistry be established in the University, with effect from 1 October 2006, for a single tenure, placed in Schedule B of the Statutes, and assigned to the Department of Biochemistry.