In Perspective

By David Chao, PhD, President and CEO

The Institute’s mission to understand the secrets of life is timeless, but the approaches that Institute scientists use to pursue this mission are changing at a dizzying and ever-increasing pace.

Advances in areas such as automation, computing power, and communications have transformed the tools and methods scientists use to perform biological research. In this issue of the Stowers Report, our feature stories focus on how Stowers scientists are incorporating some of the latest approaches and technologies in their research efforts as well as creating new resources for Stowers labs and the larger scientific community.

One leap forward that many Stowers labs have embraced is in the area of single-cell analysis, which allows scientists to take a deep dive into individual cells and examine what’s going on with genes, proteins, and other molecules inside each one. By uncovering the molecular similarities and differences of cells, researchers not only learn more about the diversity of cells but also gain important clues about their distinctive roles and functions.

This issue’s cover story describes how single-cell analysis is an important approach for Stowers researchers studying a wide range of topics—from understanding how certain cells lead others to migrate long distances to identifying specific genes involved in regeneration. With the latest techniques for analyzing single cells, researchers can examine a larger number of cells with unprecedented depth and speed.

It is perhaps not surprising that a common outcome of using more powerful research technologies is the generation of larger amounts of data. Another article in this issue describes the Institute’s infrastructure for storing and sharing a rapidly growing amount of scientific data. One of these resources is a genomic data platform called “SIMRbase”— a portmanteau of the Institute’s abbreviated name and “database.” The customized database provides an online home for DNA sequencing data and other genomic information for emerging research organisms. SIMRbase also offers collaborative tools for ongoing updating and analysis of the data as research progresses in Stowers labs and elsewhere.

In other news, we mark the retirement of our colleague and friend Bill Neaves, who served as the Institute’s CEO from 2000 to 2010 and president emeritus since then. Bill has also served as president of the Graduate School of the Stowers Institute since 2016. We thank Bill for his unwavering commitment to Jim and Virginia Stowers’ vision for the Institute and for making expectations for collegiality and excellence such an integral part of the Institute’s culture.

As we say goodbye to Bill, we welcome Betty Drees as the new president of the Graduate School. Betty is a physician, professor, and dean emerita at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine. She brings more than 25 years of experience in research, clinical medicine, education, and administration to her new role here. We look forward to the continued success of the Graduate School under Betty’s leadership.