50th Miami Winter Symposium Opens with Announcement of Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering

Speaking to an audience of nearly 300 of the world’s leading scientists, researchers and physicians attending the 50th annual Miami Winter Symposium, University of Miami President Julio Frenk announced the creation of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering, an umbrella structure that will house individual institutes for the purposes of elevating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) across the University.

The Institutes are being created from a transformational $100 million gift from Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost to support basic and applied sciences and engineering in a University-wide initiative being called STEM@UM. The gift was originally announced by President Frenk during his inauguration last year.

“The University of Miami is already known for excellence in biomedicine, marine sciences, and other fields,” said Frenk, “but continued excellence cannot be sustained without critical investments in basic and applied science, engineering, and mathematics. These disciplines, which form the building blocks for innovation, must be strengthened to maintain our leading edge as a research community.

“As scientists and scholars we understand the value of collaboration and working together as a community. We also understand the extraordinary contribution that individuals can make — from advancing discovery in a laboratory to philanthropic investments like the Frosts’. We hope their generous lead gift inspires others to invest in future institutes.”

The pluralized name of the Frost Institutes was inspired by the National Institutes of Health, allowing UM to have a strategic, coordinated investment in the sciences using an umbrella structure that has not before existed within the University.

The first individual institute will be the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences. Anchored in the fundamental discipline of chemistry, it will bring together other fields that work at the molecular level, including promising developments in the life sciences, nanotechnology and new materials. Through approaches relying on molecular design, discovery and development, research outcomes will be translated into solutions to significant real-life problems.

“Patricia and I are committed to making Miami a hub for technological and scientific innovation, which is the main reason for our support of basic and applied sciences and engineering at the University of Miami,” said Frost. “If we build the framework from which to provide the education and resources, we will be successful in attracting top scientists across various science disciplines, including chemistry and molecular biology.”

The creation of the Frost Institutes solidifies the University’s initiatives and endeavor to propel UM toward its greatest aspirations by its centennial in 2025, allowing for STEM growth, a stimulation of interdisciplinary research collaboration, and engagement with greater Miami as a hemispheric innovation hub.

The University will launch a national search for an individual to lead the Frost Institutes, with additional institutes to be created over the next several years.

Using the Miami Winter Symposium as the venue for announcing the ways in which the Frost gift will be put to work is especially appropriate because of the Frosts’ long-term support of the event, said Sylvia Daunert, Pharm.D., M.S., Ph.D., Excma.Dra., professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute.

“The Frosts have been very loyal friends of the Miami Winter Symposium,” she said. “They really like the science that we highlight. They are not only generous with their money, but they also understand extremely well the value of the research that is presented, as well as the educational impact that it has on our students. It is invaluable to have them as patrons.”

The founder of the Miami Winter Symposium, William J. Whelan, D.Sc., FRS, professor and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, says support from the Frosts has been instrumental in helping to build the Symposium into a must-attend event for top scientists from around the globe.

“The Miami Winter Symposium is a window on the world for the centers of excellence at the Miller School of Medicine,” said Whelan, who is the only person who has attended all 50 conferences. “It provides our students and faculty with access to some of the brightest minds in the world. I’m very proud that many of our speakers have been Nobel Prize winners, but I’m even prouder that we had many of them here before they won the Nobel Prize. We attract the world’s best scientists who are on the way up in their careers.”

The theme of this year’s Miami Winter Symposium is “Diabetes: Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Therapies,” and it opened on January 22 with a presentation by Camillo Ricordi, M.D., Director of the Miller School’s Diabetes Research Institute and its Cell Transplant Program, Stacy Joy Goodman Professor of Surgery, and distinguished professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, microbiology and immunology. The program has attracted 270 attendees —half from Miami and half visitors from 28 other countries — and 18 of the Miller School’s departments or institutes are represented.

The collaborative nature of scientific inquiry that has marked the Miami Winter Symposium for 50 years — and which will be furthered by the interdisciplinary investigations funded by the Frost gift — made itself evident in the first presentation following Frenk’s remarks. Douglas A. Melton, Ph.D., a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was describing some of the challenges his laboratory has been facing trying to produce beta cells in large quantities. He asked if someone in the audience was familiar with agents for somatostatin processing and might be able to help explain some puzzling findings. Several discussions ensued, including one between Melton and Ricordi about striving for performance versus perfection.

Perhaps not surprisingly, next year’s theme will be stem cells.

“We look for cutting-edge topics that highlight our centers of excellence, demonstrate our strength as a school and help us recruit new faculty,” said Whelan.

The 50th Miami 2017 Winter Symposium continues through January 25. More information, including a complete program schedule and list of speakers, is available here.

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