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An interdisciplinary Human Molecular Biology and Genetics Program has been initiated at the University of Utah as part of the George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Institute of Human Genetics.

Dr. Stephen M. Prescott has been named director of the new research program. A professor of internal medicine and adjunct associate professor of biochemistry at the U. School of Medicine, Prescott has done research focused on how hardening of the arteries occurs and how the process leads to heart attacks and strokes.Prescott said the new program will initially focus on cardiovascular research, cancer and cell development, and arthritis and inflammation. Young academicians will be trained to conduct research through the program.

A faculty of about 20 researchers, with academic appointments in regular departments and five-year appointments in the new program, will be involved. Appointments will be reviewed after five years.

Dr. Mark T. Keating, assistant professor of internal medicine and human genetics, is the first scientist to join the new program. His research focuses on defining the genetic mutation responsible for the long QT syndrome, a potentially fatal disorder that alters the normal beating of the heart.

Other appointments to the new program will be made by a committee consisting of Drs. Raymond L. White and Raymond F. Gesteland, co-chairmen of the Department of Human Genetics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators; Dr. James P. Kushner, professor of internal medicine and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology; Dr. Michael A. Simmons, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics; Dr. Donald F. Summers, chairman of the Department of Cellular, Viral and Molecular Biology, and Prescott.

"Human Molecular Biology and Genetics faculty will have their laboratories in the new Eccles Genetics building - described as one of the most modern and well-designed research facilities anywhere," Prescott said. "This and the program's activities will foster a close association with like-minded scientists."

The seven-story George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Institute of Human Genetics building is slated to open in November at the U. Health Sciences Center.

"Researchers in the new program also will receive financial support and the freedom to do their work," as a result of recent gifts totaling $9 million and the promise of continuing support from the Eccles Foundation, Prescott said.

The other genetics research organizations under the Eccles Institute umbrella are the medical school's Department of Human Genetics, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Human Genome Project.