The new Alkek Center for Molecular Discovery builds on and expands Baylor College of Medicine's established program in proteomics and adds a new developmental program in metabolomics (which refers to the metabolism in a cell and the products of that activity called metabolites) to advance studies of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Directed by Dr. Bert O'Malley, chair of molecular and cellular biology at BCM and a National Medal of Science winner, and co-directed by Dr. Adam Kuspa, BCM dean of research, the center plans to link with the Baylor Human Genome Sequencing Center in the quest to better understand the genetic, epigenetic and cellular mechanisms of healthy cells and discover how those activities can go awry, leading to disease.

Dr. Lawrence C.B. Chan, professor of medicine and director of the federally funded Diabetes and Endocrine Research Center at BCM; Dr. David Moore, professor of molecular and cellular biology; Dr. Jun Qin, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; and Dr. Dean Edwards, professor of molecular and cellular biology, will be clinical, basic, proteomic and core program directors. Dr. Arun Sreekumar, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology, has been recruited to head the newly established mass spectrometry laboratory.

"We've found a number of diseases that occur with the mutation in one gene," said O'Malley. "The next targets are more complex with multiple gene inputs along with influences of protein and the metabolism."

"The technology and informatics involved in the center will permeate the school and be useful to everyone. It will expand the ‘omics' here and could result in BCM becoming an elite national leader in this broad field," he said.

Research in the center will be directed to improved diagnostics and the development of new therapies for many of the diseases that cause the greatest death and disability.

"In the future, we hope to develop an experimental drug discovery program to complement the work ongoing in the center," said O'Malley.