Renowned researcher Dr. Fernando Martinez to lead UA's BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona

Tucson 02 February 2009One of the most highly regarded researchers worldwide in childhood lung diseases, Fernando Martinez, has accepted the position of interim director for the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona (UA) beginning February 9, 2009. Dr. Martinez is the Swift-McNear Professor of Paediatrics, the director of the UA College of Medicine's Arizona Respiratory Center, and a long time BIO5 faculty member. He and current BIO5 director Vicki Chandler served together as interim co-directors for BIO5 before Dr. Chandler was named director in 2004, and he has been a member of the BIO5 faculty advisory committee for the past five years. Dr. Martinez began his affiliation with the UA in 1984.


"I am very grateful for this unique opportunity to take my commitment to interdisciplinary research in life sciences to its highest level. There are few other examples in this country of a research institute in which bio-engineers, bio-statisticians, basic biological scientists, plant geneticists and biomedical researchers collaborate and pursue their common goals", stated Dr. Martinez.

"In these first seven years, all of us at BIO5 have learned to work together to find better treatments for human disease and more abundant and nutritious foods for humanity. I am totally committed to further expanding these efforts, and to continue supporting in any way we can the development of a strong bioscience industry that will provide better jobs and a better future for the people of Arizona."

"I am very pleased that Dr. Martinez has agreed to serve as BIO5's interim director", stated Dr. Chandler. "He is an energetic, visionary leader who will be an advocate for all of BIO5's mission areas and will ensure that BIO5 continues on a strong, positive trajectory."

"The BIO5 Institute is at the heart of the UA's efforts to strengthen life sciences research capabilities. Dr. Chandler provided inspired leadership in its development, and now we are very pleased that Dr. Martinez, with his impressive record of accomplishment, will take the reins to lead BIO5 to the next level", stated UA President Robert N. Shelton.

The BIO5 Institute plays a vital role in regional and Arizona bioscience economic and workforce development plans. BIO5 faculty members conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary biological research and the Institute facilitates interactions among faculty and industry. BIO5 also advances educational programmes at the K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels to build the next generation of scientists.

"BIO5 clearly demonstrates our university's commitment to the people of Arizona", stated Leslie Tolbert, UA vice president for research, graduate studies, and economic development. "The Institute's focus on life-changing research, economic development and science literacy exemplifies how our university benefits not only the state, but people around the world. I am delighted that Dr. Martinez will become the next director. With his international reputation as a physician-scientist and his commitment to the broad goals of BIO5, I know he will be a superb leader for BIO5's next phase."

Dr. Fernando Martinez, the new interim director for the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona. Photo: Courtesy of UA.

Asthma is the most prevalent chronic childhood illness. Viral respiratory illnesses plague infants, and much of the chronic pulmonary dysfunction that occurs in adults has its origins in these childhood illnesses. Dr. Martinez combines paediatric clinical training with epidemiology, genetic, physiologic, and immuno-biologic approaches to understanding these diseases.

He has published 160 original research papers, many in collaboration with investigators from around the world, authored 20 book chapters and co-edited two books. He is a frequent presenter at national and international meetings, and was recently invited to give the J. Amberson Lecture at the international meeting of the American Thoracic Society in 2008. This is the premier honour bestowed by this national society in recognizing the significant contributions of the invitee to advancing understanding of pulmonary diseases.

Some of Dr. Martinez's studies in the mid-1990s started a process that has given him a major policy voice with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of his publications essentially changed the climate and nature of funding for epidemiologic research at the NHLBI.

Dr. Martinez has expanded his basic research programme to address the complex relation of genetic variation to human disease. For this purpose, he closely collaborates with two major interdisciplinary training programmes at the university, the Human Genes and Environment Research (HuGER) and the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT), and with researchers at the Arizona Genomics Institute and Arizona Research Laboratories.

He and his colleagues at the Arizona Respiratory Center also have begun to elucidate the interactions between gene variants and environmental factors that provide critical influences on asthma development. For this purpose, members of the Center are currently studying exposure to germs in homes of asthma patients in collaboration with researchers at the UA's Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; exposure to desert molds together with investigators in the Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in the same College; and exposure to arsenic in water with experts from the College of Pharmacy and the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Martinez is the principal investigator on the UA portion of the NIH's National Children's Study, a major effort to investigate the interaction of genes and the environment on children's health. The UA's Department of Paediatrics was recently awarded a $44 million, six-year contract to participate in the study, which includes study locations in Pinal and Apache counties and a Maricopa county option. These location studies are led by an interdisciplinary team of investigators from the UA Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Medicine, and Public Health.

Source: University of Arizona

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