Kevin M. Ulmer, vice president of advanced technologies at Genex Corp., has been chosen to become the first director of the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB).
University President John S. Toll announced the appointment, saying he is "confident Dr. Ulmer will recruit the best scientific staff to assure CARB will rapidly become a world-class center of excellence in the field."
The Maryland legislature has approved an initial budget of $1.4 million for the center, which is being established by the university in cooperation with the National Bureau of Standards, Montgomery County and local business.
CARB will open its headquarters July 1 at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Rockville, and will have operations at various university campuses, a university spokeswoman said.
The center will "provide a forum for collaborative basic research on state-of-the-art problems" in applied molecular biology, Ulmer said in an interview.
While universities traditionally concentrate on general knowledge and companies work on product development, CARB will focus on developing new techniques for manipulating genes, cells and cell components. Such "biological technologies" could be applied in a commercial setting to develop new products, Ulmer said.
Techniques that have made the biotech boom possible include gene splicing and cell fusion. CARB's initial research will focus on protein engineering, he said.
Ulmer launched Genex's protein engineering program and was responsible for development of the Rockville company's program in exploratory research and new technologies.
"There is an enormous pool of talent" in the local area, Ulmer said, referring to scientists in government, academia and local industry. "
Montgomery County is now the "single-largest hub of biotechnology activity in the U.S.," said John H. Boyd, president of the Boyd Co., a consulting firm specializing in location analysis.
With about 100 genetic engineering and biotech support firms employing more than 4,500 workers, Montgomery County is home to about 25 percent of the U.S. biotech industry, wrote Boyd, in a recent issue of Genetic Engineering News.
By tapping the local talent pool and attracting scientists from across the country, CARB hopes "to create a truly unique, world-class facility," Ulmer said.
CARB's new director, now 34, joined Genex in 1979 as a research scientist and advanced through a variety of positions before acquiring his current title in 1983.
While he was at Genex, Ulmer helped the university plan and launch an undergraduate and graduate program in applied molecular biology. The program, one of the first of its kind in the country, is designed to address the need for more laboratory technicians trained in "state-of-the-art" methods of genetic engineering, he said.
Ulmer currently holds an adjunct faculty appointment in applied molecular biology at the University of Maryland.
"Ulmer is a very creative scientist who thinks 20 to 30 years ahead," said Genex Chairman J. Leslie Glick. "Dr. Ulmer's particular skills in integrating scientific disciplines will attract the best to CARB and make CARB a more valuable resource to companies like Genexin in the local area."
Ulmer earned a bachelor's degree in physics and biology from Williams College in 1972 and a PhD in biology and oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Ulmer will join the university's payroll April 1 as a special assistant to the president. He will become director of CARB July 1.