Beckman Center celebrates 25 years with ‘Innovation in the Biosphere’ symposium

When it opened in 1989, the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine brought together researchers from across the School of Medicine to exchange ideas and work together.

The Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine opened in 1989.
Stanford University Architect / Campus Planning and Design

In May of 1989, a new building opened its doors on the School of Medicine campus, and a grand experiment began.

The Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine brought together researchers from across the school to exchange ideas and work together to integrate the practices of basic science with clinical medicine. When fully occupied, the building housed the Department of Biochemistry and investigators for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, as well as two newly created departments: the Department of Developmental Biology and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology.

The center, which was funded in part by a $12 million gift from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, allowed the school to hire 20 additional faculty members and cemented Stanford’s reputation as a leader in basic sciences research.

On Feb. 23, the center will celebrate the past 25 years with a symposium titled “Innovation in the Biosphere.” Speakers from Stanford include center director Lucy Shapiro, PhD, professor of developmental biology; Stephen Quake, PhD, professor of bioengineering and an HHMI investigator; Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an HHMI investigator; and Carla Shatz, PhD, director of Stanford Bio-X and professor of biology and of neurobiology.

The speakers, including others from the University of California-Berkeley, University of California-San Francisco and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, will address a diverse set of topics including re-engineering life processes, biomolecular response to biosphere challenges, deep reading of genomes and new synapses in old brains. Craig Venter, PhD, founder and chairman of the J. Craig Venter Institute, will present the last talk of the afternoon, on generating life from scratch.

“These are real leaders on the very cutting edge of science who will appeal to every researcher in the School of Medicine,” said Suzanne Pfeffer, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry. “This is an opportunity to hear an impressive group of speakers identify the scientific frontiers of the next decade.”

The symposium is free and open to the public. More information about it is available at

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