25th Anniversary, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR)
University of Maryland Shady Grove, Rockville, MD
October 25, 2012
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director
It's a real pleasure to be here and to join in this party.
A number have already spoken about this as the 25th anniversary, but this is closer to a birthday party. We're just coming out of the awkward adolescent years. And a big part of the celebration you heard is the sense of excitement that, in fact, the best is really in front of us—that we have reached a maturity and a momentum. And I think the excitement is palatable.
I also want to start by thanking everyone who made this possible. A joint institute, by its very definition, is a team sport. And you see, very powerfully, in this room the kind of teamwork that makes it happen. And that includes enlightened leadership, from our local government, like County Executive Ike Leggett; from the federal government with Chris Van Hollen; from our state institutions, Chancellor; and from our tremendous universities here. I want to thank all of you for your partnership with NIST in this role.
I think it's the essence of these partnerships ... something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I think we should feel good that we have done that. I think it's interesting to reflect upon what more we can do going forward.
I also want to, as I think is suitable for an occasion like this, to celebrate the special roles pioneers play. Rita, I know you were involved from the very beginning, working with Don Johnson, who was then the director of the National Measurement Laboratory at NIST. It's interesting how some of the old names are coming back. At that time, however, we were the National Bureau of Standards. It's worth remembering that at that time—the early 1980s—the world of biotechnology and biosciences was quite different. This was before the human genome was sequenced. This was at a time when a day's work might reflect 300 base pairs getting sequenced instead of 3,000,000,000. This was at a time when there was one therapeutic protein in the market, not hundreds.
And so it was a different time, and I think it was different for the National Bureau of Standards—an agency that was recognized as a physical sciences agency, but not as one that had a key role in the evolving and emerging biosciences. And it took a form of courageous leadership to realize that this was the future, and that some key roots had to be placed. And I think it was enlightened to place those roots not on any one of the campuses of the key partners. Because that had been the recipe in the past. This was placed in what was to be one of the hottest biotech corridors for industry that this country has. I think that is quite interesting and I think the premise of our future partnership and making it stronger going forward.
NIST's mission has not changed from that time. It remains to support this nation's competitiveness and innovation by supporting advances in measurement science and also facilitating the world of standards setting, which in this country is industry led and industry driven.
It's because of that mission that NIST moved into biosciences and biotechnology. It's the shift of this country toward making these enormous investments that has given us this leadership position, that has given all of us this promise and potential that you so powerfully shared with us, ... what bioscience brings and means to the human condition. What it means to our economic prosperity as a country. And what it means for our quality of life.
And it's for all of those reasons that NIST had to move out of its comfort zone of physical sciences and push into this new area. And it's because of that—that partnerships have such a powerful way of doing this—that we could bring our measurement science mission, our facilities, our assets, our talented scientists, and in full partnership with two leading research universities in the state, really build something that was bigger ..., bigger than all.
I think going forward, one of the most exciting things that faces us is that, when this was first put in place in the 1980s, the enormous industrial technology corridor that is here now didn't exist. And this institute has the potential to be one of those really unique partnerships, which brings in the full power of the public-private partnership, which we already have, but now it also includes a whole partnership with this dynamic industry that's arrayed around us.
I really want to single out the enlightened leadership from our two university partners, because they have seen this potential. This renewal of our partnership, which is so important to me, would not have happened without your commitment and your leadership to make it happen.
And that's why I'm more excited about the next 25 years even than what we are here to acknowledge and celebrate in front of us today.
We're delighted to be here. I'm particularly delighted to acknowledge Rita for your key role in this endeavor. And to my partner-in-crime Willie May—Willie's my right-hand man, so this feels a little bit self-congratulatory today—for your role and your commitment to making sure this is a vibrant and essential part of the NIST mission. So, thank you for that.
Let me add to what you've heard from everyone my sincere congratulations to all of you who have made this partnership what it is today. I want to enjoy the celebration with you, but I also am excited because of what this means going forward. Those of you involved with IBBR know that there is a tremendous excitement about what's being pulled together about new facilities, new partnerships, new measurement capability, new faculty, new talent. And it couldn't be more exciting.
Thank you and congratulations.