Carnegie Mellon University
September 22, 2009

Computational Biology Becomes Department In Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science

By Byron Spice

PITTSBURGH— Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science (SCS) has added computational biology to its educational mix by incorporating the Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology as a new academic unit. 

The interdisciplinary research center, established two years ago, will function as a department within SCS, making it the first computational biology department in the country to be part of a computer science school. The Lane Center joins the Computer Science Department, Robotics Institute, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Machine Learning Department, Language Technologies Institute and the Institute for Software Research as the school's seventh academic unit.

Today's announcement came at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the Lane Center's move into the new Hillman Center for Future Generation Technologies. The Hillman Center, a 60,000-square-foot office and research building, is being dedicated today along with the adjoining 157,000-square-foot Gates Center for Computer Science.

"Carnegie Mellon has strong traditions of interdisciplinary research and of pioneering new fields, such as computational biology, that occur at the intersections of those disciplines," said Randal E. Bryant, SCS dean. "The Lane Center, under the leadership of Robert F. Murphy, has demonstrated the powerful synergy that occurs when computational thinking is applied to biological science. We believe computational biology will continue to flourish as part of SCS."

Pittsburgh native Ray Lane, chairman of the Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees and general partner of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and his wife Stephanie gave $5 million to the university in 2007 to establish the Lane Center, endow a professorship and support doctoral and post-doctoral training in computational biology. 

"Two years ago, we believed that computational biology and especially Carnegie Mellon's computational and imaging capabilities held great promise to advance research on devastating diseases such as cancer," Lane said. "The scientific progress we've seen since then has only underscored this belief. We look forward to what these remarkable scientists can achieve as part of one of the world's leading computer science schools."

Among other accomplishments, Lane Center researchers have developed analytical techniques for determining the genes that contribute to complex disease syndromes such as diabetes, asthma and cancer; invented tools for showing how genetic networks evolve as organisms develop; detected mechanisms that allow genes to fill-in for similar genes that have been disabled; developed methods for checking the consistency of biochemical models; identified more than 100 genes that are inactivated in malignant cells and are potential targets for drug therapy; created complex simulations of molecular events within cells; and developed methods for accelerating the automated analysis of cell behaviors.

"Many of the Lane Center's investigators already are SCS faculty members, so that makes the school a natural home for computational biology," said Murphy, the center director and the Ray and Stephanie Lane Professor of Computational Biology. "But this field will always be highly interdisciplinary. We look forward to maintaining strong ties to other departments and colleges at the university, especially the Department of Biological Sciences in the Mellon College of Science, the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering, and the Department of Statistics in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as our collaborators around the globe."