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Why Give to the Institute of Biomedical Sciences?

Why I Give: Liza Bailey

Janie and Liza and Bailey

Janie Elizabeth “Liza” Bailey, a member of multiple boards at The Johns Hopkins University who also happens to be a descendent of one of its founder’s siblings, looks at “a very long time horizon.” For her, that’s a large part of the appeal in giving to the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences: Discoveries that unlock basic biological principles won’t affect medical practice this year or next, but they are crucial in laying the foundation for future breakthroughs. “I was happy to give to something that I felt would be unique but for which it’s very hard to raise money,” she says.

And it’s not just the research itself that lays a foundation, Bailey says. “Promoting young scientists so they can establish their careers bears so much fruit over time,” she says. “It’s an area where Hopkins excels, in part because the interaction among people who are there now is so rich and fulfilling. It’s a great environment.”

One area of the institute’s research that Bailey finds particularly interesting is centered on telomeres, which protect the ends of our chromosomes and shrink as we age. This research, led by Carol Greider and Mary Armanios, provides insights into “how and why we age—questions with big implications for the health care system and for society as a whole,” Bailey says. “Mary’s work also involves telomeres’ role in rare but terrible diseases. It touches not only on causes, but also on possible treatments.”

That’s true, ultimately, of all of Johns Hopkins’ basic biomedical research. “I think if we can have a breakthrough in one area, there is great potential in terms of health care and impact on patients,” Bailey says.


Why researchers believe it's important to invest in the basic sciences

Invest in the basic sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine

There is no substitute for research conducted by individual investigators—it is the hallmark of the basic sciences. Virtually all mechanistic understanding of disease, current treatments, and diagnostic tools has basic science discoveries as its foundation. The Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences (IBBS) promotes research that drives advances in medicine. Nine basic science departments study fundamentals from solving protein structures to dissecting cell movement and from analyzing chromosome structure to deconstructing biochemical pathways.

When the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was founded, the unusual mandate was that the field of medicine be treated as a form of graduate study and to include scientific research, and physicians and scientists were thought of as one and the same. Despite tremendous growth, advances in technology, and changing pressures in health care, the link between medicine and scholarship remains unbroken at Johns Hopkins even today.

IBBS reinforces this link by fostering a collaborative environment that bridges basic science and clinical research. The eight interdisciplinary IBBS centers bring together experts from various science and medical backgrounds to study topics, such as metabolism and obesity, pain, autism, and mental illness, in innovative ways. IBBS researchers are adopting new technologies; building tools and using them to track cells and molecules; cracking codes that control how genetic material is read; and rebuilding tissues and organs.

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