ANN ARBOR, MI – One of the oldest departments at the University of Michigan is about to get a new leader. The U-M Board of Regents today approved the appointment of Pierre A. Coulombe, Ph.D., to lead the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the Medical School.
Coulombe will become chair on August 1, and lead one of the nine basic science departments of Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center. The department’s researchers study how structure governs function in cells and tissues throughout the body, and how complex arrays of signals are integrated to foster the proper development of tissues and organs. They also study stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, and train undergraduate, graduate and medical students in cell biology.
The department traces its roots back to 1854, soon after the founding of the Medical School, when it was known as the Department of Anatomy.
Coulombe comes to Michigan from Johns Hopkins University, where he chaired the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Bloomberg School of Public Health for nine years, and held the E.V. McCollum professorship as well as several joint appointments in the School of Medicine. At Hopkins, Coulombe was noted for recruiting and nurturing junior faculty members to success, and developing robust training programs for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. He was also instrumental in addressing the department’s infrastructure needs.
“To me, cell and developmental biology are critically important endeavors as one seeks to translate the wealth of knowledge acquired in biochemistry and molecular biology, along with the power of imaging techniques, into a better understanding of how organs and tissues form, and operate, under normal and disease conditions,” he says. “This knowledge is also important for developing novel therapies for human disease. U-M already is a formidable institution, and otherwise is making a substantial investment into biomedical research. Therefore, I am absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to lead Cell & Developmental Biology, and team up with my new colleagues in the department and at U-M, to fulfill this potential.”
In addition to his appointment in Cell & Developmental Biology, Coulombe will have a joint appointment in the U-M Department of Dermatology. His research focuses on understanding how keratin proteins and the nanoscale filaments they form foster an optimal architecture and function in skin and related epithelia, and how disruption of these processes result in diseases ranging from inherited conditions to cancer.
A native of Montréal, Québec, Coulombe earned his undergraduate degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Université de Montréal. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology & Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Chicago before joining Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1992. He is the author of more than 140 peer-reviewed publications and one book, holds one patent, and has received multiple awards in recognition of his research and teaching endeavors.
For more about the U-M Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, visit https://medicine.umich.edu/dept/cell-developmental-biology.