Guo named inaugural director of new Center for Collaborative Innovation

Su Guo, PhD, has been appointed the inaugural director of a new Center for Collaborative Innovation that aims to stimulate collaborative innovations involving basic, translational, and clinical sciences across all departments in the School.

The Center will serve as the nexus of cross-departmental collaborations and will oversee several funding programs in the School, including the Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation and bridge funding. It also will help fulfill a major goal outlined in the School’s Strategic Plan to increase collaboration between clinical, translational, and discovery science in teaching and research.

In her new role, Guo, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, will develop the Center’s vision and establish a framework for future cross-departmental collaborations in the School. She plans to organize a postdoc symposium expected to occur in April 2024 and will organize events and activities that support funding activities throughout the year.

“The Center will provide an opportunity for people to get together and get started on thinking about the next collaborative grant, something bigger than the seed grant,” Guo said. “The idea is that one plus one is greater than two. We can focus on making a bigger impact than each of us can on our own.”

“Guo’s multidisciplinary approach has always been at the forefront of innovation in biological sciences, enabling discovery since her early work was credited by Stanford University scientist and 2006 Nobel Prize winner Andrew Fire, PhD,” said Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm. “She is always searching for new challenges, and we look forward to seeing how she elevates and energizes our culture of collaboration in the School.”

A bottom-up approach to collaboration

Guo said the Center is not just for faculty and that she wants to get trainees and students involved, collaborating with people they might not interact with otherwise.

“Currently, we often collaborate in our comfort zones,” Guo said. “I want to encourage trainees to reach out to people they normally don’t find things in common with so they can research questions and goals across many different disciplines. That’s the innovative aspect of collaboration.”

Guo’s mission includes promoting the well-being of faculty, postdocs, specialists, and other non-faculty academic staff, in what she calls a “bottom-up approach.”

“Sometimes PIs [principal investigators] are so busy, with so many things to think about, including applying for grants, they don’t have time to reach out,” said Guo, a former research and postdoctoral fellow at both Harvard Medical School and Genentech. “With this Center, we want to give people more bandwidth to help each other, including social hours.”

Diverse experience and expertise

Enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through funding and other programs is another important goal for the new Center. Guo said she would be working with Executive Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, and fellow BTS faculty member Ryan Hernandez, PhD, who is a Co-Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), to support collaboration in an equitable way.

“Our School is so great because we have diverse expertise, from basic science to drug discovery, structural biology, and computational—all the way to clinical pharmacy,” Guo said. “We want to create some type of funding mechanism to enhance diversity in our school and on campus, to expand on that big spectrum.”

In the Guo Lab, she applies expertise in molecular biology, genetics, and cell biology to questions in developmental and neurobiology, increasing understanding of the brain and the mind to help treat neuropsychiatric disorders. Guo believes that curiosity and a collaborative attitude are key to successful scientific inquiries, and she plans to bring those same values to the Center.

“The Center wants to cultivate curiosity,” she said, “and go places people normally don’t think there are great discoveries to be made.”


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

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.