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Rutgers Board Approves Acclaimed Physician and Scientist as First Academic Appointment of UMDNJ Merger

Stephen K. Burley is the new director of the Rutgers’ Proteomics Research Center.

Editor's Note: The following information is a press release from Rutgers University.

Stephen K. Burley, an internationally recognized physician and scientist, and an expert in structural biology, drug discovery, clinical medicine and oncology, will be the new director of Rutgers University’s Center for Integrative Proteomics Research – the first major academic appointment that is a direct result of Rutgers’ integration with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The Rutgers Board of Governors voted Dec. 14 to appoint Burley to the position, which he will take over in January. Last month, the Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees voted unanimously to support the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which transfers most of UMDNJ’s schools, institutes and centers to Rutgers on July 1.

“Dr. Burley’s background, experience and stature will provide us with the world-class leadership we need not only for proteomics research, but also in building translational medicine and biomedical educational initiatives as part of the new Rutgers,” said Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi. “In addition, he is passionate about medical education reform and has a clear understanding of the importance of public-private partnerships.” 

The Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, a new 75,000-square-foot Rutgers facility, houses scholars from multiple disciplines and departments at Rutgers. Scientists study structures, functions and interactions of proteins to advance medicine by increasing the ability to concentrate on each patient’s unique biological profile.

Burley has had a long and impressive scientific career in academia and the private sector and is a world-class structural biologist whose research has the potential to change the way disease is treated. For more than a decade, Burley worked at Rockefeller University, an internationally renowned biomedical science, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics research center in New York, where he became a Richard M. and Isabel P. Furland tenured professor.  Burley was also among a select group of scientists chosen as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator because of his potential to make a significant contribution to science.

“Dr. Burley is a world-class structural biologist who is transforming the emerging field of precision medicine from art to science by providing a molecular framework for understanding the interactions that control gene expression, thereby enabling the discovery of drugs tailored to selectively modulate biological function,” said Kenneth Breslauer, vice president of Health Science Partnerships at Rutgers. Breslauer added that the impending integration of Rutgers and UMDNJ was a key factor in Burley’s decision to come here.

Burley received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in the joint Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program and his doctoral degree as a Rhodes Scholar in molecular biophysics at Oxford University. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the New York Academy of Sciences. He co-founded Prospect Genomics Inc., a biotechnology company focused on drug discovery and development in oncology, which was acquired by San Diego-based SGX Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2001.

In 2002, Burley became chief scientific officer at SGX, a position he held until 2008, when the publicly traded pharmaceutical company was sold to Eli Lilly and Co. Since 2008, Burley has served as a Distinguished Lilly Research Scholar in the Lilly Research Laboratories.

“I am excited to be joining Rutgers on the cusp of an unprecedented transition, as it merges with UMDNJ. The Proteomics Research Center and the Protein Data Bank have important roles to play in biomedical research and education,” Burley said.

As director of the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, Burley will succeed Helen M. Berman, who has served as interim director of the Proteomics Research Center since it opened last year. Berman, Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, also directs the RCSB Protein Data Bank, which is the cornerstone of the Proteomics Research Center, Breslauer said.

“The Protein Data Bank is the world’s ‘molecular library’ of the three-dimensional structures of biological molecules,” Breslauer said. “In addition to her world-renowned work as director of the Protein Data Bank, Helen Berman has done an outstanding job as interim director of the Proteomics Research Center.

“Dr. Burley has served as chair of the Protein Data Bank external advisory board, so he has worked closely with Dr. Berman over the past decade,” Breslauer added. “We look forward

to a successful partnership between these two stellar scientists.”

RCSB is the acronym for Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics.

Established in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation’s premier public research universities. Serving nearly 60,000 students on campuses in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick, Rutgers is one of only two New Jersey institutions represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

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