UC San Francisco establishes Quantitative Biosciences Institute

UC San Francisco today announced the establishment of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI). The mission of QBI, located in Byers Hall on the UCSF Mission Bay campus, is to drive forward the application of computation, mathematics, and statistics toward a deeper understanding of complex problems in biology, with the ultimate goal of developing new treatments for disease.

The founding director of QBI is Nevan Krogan, PhD, who in this role reports to B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. Krogan, a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology and a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes, is known for his research into developing and using systems biology approaches to help clarify complex biological phenomena at a mechanistic level.

With the establishment of QBI, our researchers across campus will be able to carry out that strategy more comprehensively. We have the expertise; now we have the framework for increased success.

—B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD

“Our goal at QBI is to help make precision medicine a reality by using quantitative research tools to understand the underlying biology behind different disease states, and then to use that knowledge to develop novel therapies and put them into the hands of clinicians,” said Krogan.

QBI will initially focus on conditions such as breast cancer, head and neck cancer, psychiatric disorders including autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, and the genomic aspects of the overall relationship between diseases and their hosts.

Krogan also directs the UCSF site of the California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), a state institute that also includes UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. In his role leading QB3-UCSF, Krogan reports to UCSF neuroscientist Regis Kelly, PhD, who leads the QB3 consortium.

Byers Hall

QBI is located in Byers Hall on the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

“Because of the success of its entrepreneurial efforts involving startup incubators and venture funds, the QB3 name is associated strongly with commercialization,” said Kelly. “By launching QBI, with its emphasis on the science, Nevan is reaffirming that the quantitative sciences are central to our mission at UCSF.”

“I am extremely pleased that Nevan has accepted the challenge of directing QBI,” said Dean Guglielmo. “A major focus of many UCSF scientists is to apply techniques of quantitative biology to better understand disease and develop effective treatments. With the establishment of QBI, our researchers across campus will be able to carry out that strategy more comprehensively. We have the expertise; now we have the framework for increased success.”

Guglielmo noted that as an official University of California Organized Research Unit, QBI will be in a position to apply for large collaborative cross-disciplinary grants from the National Institutes of Health, which will ultimately benefit the work of QBI faculty affiliates, as well as faculty affiliates of QB3-UCSF.

QBI was formerly known as the Molecular Design Institute (MDI), founded in 1993 by Irwin “Tack” Kuntz, PhD, today a professor emeritus in the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. The goal of MDI was to promote the discovery, design, and delivery of novel pharmaceutical agents.

“Tack Kuntz did much of the fundamental work to make QBI possible,” said Krogan. “Of course, when MDI was established, many of the experimental and computational tools were simply not there to do drug design based on quantitative biology. Now, thanks to revolutions in detection, analysis, and computation over the last 20 years, we will be able to use quantitative approaches to identify compounds that could have an effect on different proteins and pathways, and therefore different disease states.”


UC San Francisco Establishes Quantitative Biosciences Institute


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.