FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Contact: Dave Wellman, Director of Communications (304) 696-7153
Dr. Eric Kmiec named Director, Lead Research Scientist of Marshall University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR)
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Eric Kmiec, Professor of Biology at the University of Delaware and Director of Applied Genomics at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, has been named the first Director and Lead Research Scientist of the Marshall University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR), President Stephen J. Kopp announced today. Kmiec begins his duties at Marshall in January 2009.
MIIR is a new research and development program at Marshall that will focus on biotechnology, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology and niche areas of applied molecular research. It is expected to intensify and accelerate the rate at which Marshall’s research reaches the marketplace, thus benefiting the University and the state of West Virginia. Kmiec will be responsible for assembling the team of interdisciplinary research scientists who will comprise the core of the Institute.
The passage this year of a legislative initiative to create a $50 million endowment fund to be invested in research at Marshall and West Virginia University and patterned after Kentucky’s highly successful “Bucks for Brains” program was a major factor in Kmiec’s decision to accept the position at Marshall.
“Certainly, it is extremely attractive to know that the state and particularly President Kopp have advanced this idea, building on other programs around the country,” Kmiec said. “The research endowment and the state support, particularly from the Legislature and Gov. Joe Manchin, was an important part of the decision to join the team here.”
Kmiec is widely recognized as a pioneer of gene repair, a technique in which synthetic DNA molecules are used to patch or repair mutations in human chromosomes. He has trained numerous postdocs and graduate students in the field of molecular medicine.
He also has received numerous research and community service awards. Research in his laboratory is supported through multiple grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), private research foundation and Discovery program at High Q foundation. He owns more than 60 issued patents or patent applications and has founded several biotechnology companies. Kmiec also is managing editor of Frontiers in Bioscience, and recently joined the editorial board of the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
Kopp said he is “ecstatic” that Kmiec has agreed to serve as MIIR’s first director. He said he expects, under Kmiec’s leadership, that a focused program of pioneering research dedicated to producing patentable scientific breakthroughs will be developed. Importantly, this program will build on existing areas of strength and provide opportunities for pioneering research collaborations with scientists already working at Marshall University.
“If you look at Dr. Kmiec’s experience in applied research leading to research-based economic development, he has been very successful,” Kopp said. “His area of expertise fits exactly what we need in the development of the biosciences. He is a grant-funded scientist who has the ability to build a successful team, leading to discoveries that are patentable and communicably viable. He has tremendous leadership qualities and incredible interpersonal skills.”
Kmiec said that he expects to assemble a strong team of scientists at Marshall.
“We should be able to seriously impact the economic development programs in the state by creating high paying jobs, by engaging good talent around the country,” he said. “A bunch of my colleagues are aware that I have taken this position and already I’ve gotten calls from folks that are very curious about Marshall and what’s going on here. The word is spreading very rapidly. I hope to nucleate a group of people to spend a little more time looking at coming and joining our team. I think that immediately breeds more talent and stronger jobs and higher paying jobs in the state and for this institution.”
At the University of Delaware, Kmiec runs a research lab that looks at some of the therapies for diseases such as Huntington’s Disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Muscular Dystrophy. He said years ago he became very interested in moving beyond the basic discovery side of his work and pushing it into the more applied translational side.
He explained translational programs as those “that take the bench to bedside approach. For many years, basic science has driven great discoveries that have impacted diagnostics, optics, wonderful types of advances in human health and agriculture and many other areas,” he said.
“But, there’s been a tendency to stay locked at the bench. Now, the pressure from the federal government, state government and health institutions in general is to move those discoveries toward treating human disease and human afflictions.”
He said his work at Delaware hinges on developing therapies and products toward human health.
“We’ve been at Delaware for about 10 years and have, I think, advanced the field in conjunction with a lot of good collaborations and openings,” Kmiec said.
Kmiec said he believes MIIR will grow “cautiously in a progressive manner.”
“We’re going to ground ourselves in very good discoveries,” he said. “I think we’re going to expand in a very strong way. I don’t think we’re going to try to recreate the world in the first year. But, I see a solid progression employing a lot of new technicians, a lot of new people impacting the economic development part of the economy and advancing the biotechnology licensing opportunities.”
Kmiec received his B.A. in Microbiology from Rutgers University in 1978 and his M.S. in Microbiology from Southern Illinois University in 1980. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1984 and, after completing his postdoctoral work at the University of Rochester, held faculty positions at the University of California Davis and Thomas Jefferson University.
Kmiec is a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of OrphageniX, Inc., an innovative biotechnology company focused on correcting genes that cause “orphan diseases.” At Marshall, he will report to MIIR’s Board of Directors, headed by Kopp, and Dr. John Maher, Vice President for Research with the Marshall University Research Corp.
“I have met and worked with a lot of people in scientific research, and he is by far the most impressive because of the array of expertise and skills he brings to Marshall University,” Kopp said.
Maher described Kmiec as a world-class researcher who has had significant entrepreneurial success.
“What we are putting in place in MIIR is unique in both its structure and its focus,” Maher said. “It requires an individual with unique and exceptional talents to head it. We feel Dr. Kmiec has the scientific and leadership skills to make MIIR the scientific and economic development success the president envisioned. We are grateful for the state’s commitment to the Bucks for Brains program which enabled us to attract a scientific leader of his caliber to Marshall.”
Kmiec and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, Tyler and Sam.