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Two new basic science chairs reflect One Emory focus on collaborative research

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Holly Korschun

Two new chairs in the basic sciences in Emory School of Medicine are the result of an effort to promote and support collaborative research among fundamental scientists across the university through the One Emory framework.

Eric J. Sundberg, PhD, was recently recruited from the University of Maryland School of Medicine to head the Department of Biochemistry, effective September 1, 2019. His recruitment was jointly sponsored by School of Medicine Dean Vikas Sukhatme, Provost Dwight A. McBride, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Jonathan Lewin, and Senior Vice President for Research Deborah Bruner. 

Gari D. Clifford, DPhil, recently was appointed chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics after serving as interim chair since 2016.

“We are confident that both of these leaders in fundamental sciences will contribute to the growing collaborative culture in the basic sciences at Emory,” says Vikas Sukhatme, MD, ScD, dean of Emory School of Medicine. “Through their proven leadership, they not only will grow research within their own departments but they have the expertise to identify and guide priority research areas that will enhance and sustain Emory’s research enterprise for the future.”

Throughout his career, Eric Sundberg has focused his work on the structural biology of infection and immunity, including using molecular biophysics and protein engineering to define the molecular bases of infectious diseases and to develop novel protein therapeutics.

He currently serves as professor of medicine and co-director of the Basic Science Division in the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and economics from the University of Rochester, Sundberg earned his PhD in biological sciences at Northwestern University. He joined the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute as a postdoctoral fellow in 1999 and transitioned to a research faculty member in 2002. In 2004, he started his independent research program at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute before returning to Maryland in 2011 as an associate professor.

As interim chair of biomedical informatics, Gari Clifford has successfully expanded the extramural funding portfolio and spearheaded innovative partnership initiatives with Emory Healthcare, Georgia Tech and industry partners. He also is associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. 

Clifford joined Emory and Georgia Tech in 2014, and he has continued to grow an international reputation in critical care data analysis and the application of signal processing and machine learning to medicine. After completing his PhD at the University of Oxford, he was a postdoctoral fellow, then principal research scientist at MIT. He later returned to Oxford as an associate professor of biomedical engineering, where he helped found its Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute and served as director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation at the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

Clifford has established Emory’s biomedical informatics department as a leading center for critical care and mHealth informatics, underpinning the mobile data analytics for several research projects at Emory and across the world, including the Emory Healthy Aging Study.

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