International leader in genetics research takes the helm at the UF Genetics Institute

Patrick Concannon, Ph.D., named new director

University of Florida Genetics Institute has named a new director, Patrick Concannon, Ph.D.

The University of Florida Genetics Institute has named a new director, internationally noted genetics expert Patrick Concannon, Ph.D.

Concannon, who will start at UF in January 2013, will oversee a vast research enterprise that draws on scientists from across the entire UF campus.

“The breadth of the research and the fact that it is multidisciplinary and cross-college make it intriguing for me,” Concannon said. “The really creative and innovative ideas typically arise at the interface between disciplines and approaches.”

UF academic heads hail Concannon as a first-class scientist, leader and mentor.

“We were most fortunate to get him,” said David Norton, Ph.D., UF vice president for research. “His research expertise, demeanor and genuine interest in using genomics to make an impact in a broad spectrum of fields that includes medicine, the biological sciences, agriculture, and a host of applications that overlap these areas make him an outstanding addition to our ranks.”

Concannon will succeed Kenneth Berns, M.D., Ph.D., who is retiring after almost a decade as director of the UF Genetics Institute.

Concannon, who earned a doctorate in biology at the University of California, Los Angeles comes to UF from the University of Virginia, where he is the associate director of the Center for Public Health Genomics, the Harrison professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and a professor of hematology and oncology. Previously, he served as associate institute director and molecular genetics program director at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason in Seattle. He also was an affiliate professor of immunology at the University of Washington.

Concannon’s own research is multidisciplinary, examining the role of genetics in Type 1 diabetes, breast cancer, malnutrition and radiation sensitivity. He is particularly interested in bioinformatics and computational biology, and how they can be applied across different fields to create nontraditional opportunities for investigators. His research interests align well with areas in which UF excels — notably, UF’s international reputation for Type 1 diabetes research and its Diabetes Center of Excellence.

Supported by more than $12 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Concannon’s work has led to more than 150 peer-reviewed papers in top journals, including Nature, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also authored more than 35 book chapters, reviews and invited publications, and given scores of invited presentations in many countries, including Spain, Italy, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States.

Concannon, who has mentored 26 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, said part of what attracted him to UF was the existence of many institutes that successfully incorporate various colleges and disciplines. In his role as Genetics Institute director he will work closely with researchers from the College of Medicine, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to strengthen that kind of collaboration.

“We very much look forward to Dr. Concannon’s leadership of this multidisciplinary endeavor, building upon the host of talents we already have here at UF to achieve even greater international prominence in this area,” Norton said.

Concannon sees opportunities to enhance UF’s genetics research impact by collaborating with colleges and departments on the recruitment of new faculty in key areas, easing information-sharing among groups, facilitating interactions between researchers who might have complementary interests, providing access to new technologies that may promote new research directions, or assisting with the fleshing out of ideas that might need preliminary data before grant applications can be submitted.

“He understands people and has the ability to bring people together to achieve great things,” said Win Phillips, D.Sc., UF senior vice president and chief operating officer.

The goal of those efforts will be greater cohesion among all the genetics-related activities at UF in medicine, agriculture, arts and sciences, pharmacology, veterinary medicine, dentistry and many other fields.

“Dr. Concannon is simply the man to lead us into the next age,” Phillips said. “We want nothing less than a world-class Genetics Institute, and we have a tremendous chance to do it.”