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New initiative to address global medical challenges launched at MIT

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A pioneering international collaboration among premier researchers and world-class institutions designed to bring the advances of engineering, science and nanotechnology to bear on major medical and public health issues will launch Wednesday, Oct. 12, in a ceremony at MIT.

The Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine -- to be known by its acronym, GEM4 -- will bring together scientists, engineers and health professionals from institutions around the world to address such global medical challenges as infectious and cardiovascular diseases, cancer and environmental health.

"In a flat world where institutional, cultural and national barriers are fast disappearing and where instant communication around the clock is bringing people together in unprecedented ways, the infrastructure of GEM4 will be an engine that drives collaborations across disciplinary boundaries with potential for sweeping societal impact on a global scale," said Subra Suresh, director of GEM4, Ford Professor of Engineering and head of MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

GEM4 launch participants include scientists from MIT, Harvard University, the National University of Singapore, Institut Pasteur in Paris, the Max-Planck Institute, the University of Illinois, Georgia Institute of Technology, Caltech, Johns Hopkins University and Chulabhorn Research Institute in Thailand.

These prestigious colleagues bring state-of-the-art experimental, computational and clinical expertise in infectious diseases, bioengineering, biomedicine, computational systems biology and immunology to GEM4's innovative collaboration.

GEM4 will be a forum to facilitate innovative, multiscale, multidisciplinary projects using aspects of applied engineering and science, including a new generation of nanotech tools.

"Our idea is to bring top researchers together across time zones and disciplinary boundaries, seamlessly and frequently," said Suresh.

In addition to Suresh, John Essigmann and Ram Sasisekharan, professors in MIT's Biological Engineering Division, were among those who played key roles in formulating the GEM4 paradigm, along with senior administrators and faculty from MIT and other participating institutions.

In addressing major health issues, GEM4 will focus initially on nanomechanics in biomedicine and environmental health. These are areas in which a single investigator, institution or region of the world is not likely to have the necessary spectrum of expertise, infrastructure or resources to produce a beneficial global effect.

The uniqueness of GEM4 lies in its vision of fostering a global engagement among colleagues in order to promote novel modes of interactions that cannot be established by conventional multi-institutional arrangements. These new modes of interaction will result in global sharing of facilities, summer schools, exchange of students and researchers, and unprecedented opportunities to harness support and infrastructure for addressing grand challenges.

GEM4 will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in a ceremony at MIT with representatives from participating institutions. Among those attending will be Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand, President C. Fong Shih of the National University of Singapore, Chancellor Richard Herman of the University of Illinois, and MIT President Susan Hockfield, along with dignitaries and top administrators from several institutions. Also attending will be R. Mashelkar, director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of India and V.S. Ramamurthy, secretary to the Indian government for science and technology. A GEM4 colloquium will follow on Thursday, Oct. 13.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 19, 2005 (download PDF).

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