The creation of the Genomics Center at the University of California, Riverside is a dramatic example of how a comprehensive research university can aid humankind.
“Genomics” is the cover story subject for this issue of Fiat Lux. It is a field of broad scientific and social inquiry that has the potential to better the lives of people around the world. It is a field not without controversy. That is why the role of a public research University is so important in insuring careful, excellent and responsible research; thoughtful discussion of ethical issues; and development of economic and business pathways.
In only a few generations, our knowledge of the gene has soared. James Watson and Francis Crick first identified the double helix of DNA in 1953, a discovery that led to the eventual deciphering of DNA’s genetic messages carried within plant and animal cells. These coded messages are the instructions that tell the cell what to do and what to become. By editing the messages, we are able to create new medicines, more healthful and plentiful food, improved fuels and new materials. Integration of new products and processes into society will reshape society of the future and impact our lifestyles and world economies.
UCR through its years of preeminence in agricultural research is positioned well to lead this new field. But, it is not just a scientific undertaking. The campus came together in a very remarkable way in response to Gov. Gray Davis’ offer to create a suite of scientific institutes at UC with an initial state commitment of $300 million.
At UCR, each school, each college, saw a role for it and its faculty to play in the formation of a California Science Institute at UCR. Everyone pulled together and in an astonishingly short time, UCR and sister campuses at Davis and Berkeley had come together, created an extraordinary proposal and found outside resources totaling $236 million to match the governor’s investment.
While the first institutes were selected in the areas of biotechnology, telecommunications and medicine, the foundation created by the proposal at UCR will serve well as the campus proceeds with development of the Genomics Center. We have built an intellectual infrastructure upon which we will proceed. The need is great.
I am pleased that UCR faculty and students are in the forefront of this research and dialogue as I think you will be when you read of UCR’s plans and accomplishments.
Chancellor Raymond L. Orbach