Introducing the Tananbaum Center for Theoretical and Analytical Human Biology at Yale University

It’s an exciting time to be in the life sciences, with advances in multiple scientific fields coming together to further our understanding of human health and disease. A key part of our investment focus at Foresite Capital is to invest in firms that are combining data from different scientific disciplines to understand drivers of health and disease. We believe this approach will ultimately lead to being able to deliver individualized healthcare affordably at scale for all and ultimately reduce the cost of healthcare as a percent of GDP, while enabling each individual to live their longest healthiest life.

As I look further out to the future, I see a world in which we begin to understand what life is and what creates life forces, and how biology is constructed from matter. I’m proud to bring together the resources to begin focusing our study through the newly announced Tananbaum Center for Theoretical and Analytical Human Biology at Yale University. My hope is that over the next century it contributes to the foundation of how we think about life.

During the last 50 years, our understanding of biology has been accelerating, and we are finally entering an era where we can apply tools from other areas of technology and science to understand what drives the choices that nature = has made in creating life on our planet and why life breaks down over time. Over the last decade, scientific silos between biology, physics, math and computer science have been slowly eroding. The time is right to bring together experts in various disciplines and give them the tools and resources they need to broaden our fundamental knowledge about disease and illness. Initially, the center will recruit faculty from immunobiology, cell biology, pathology, and medicine who have expertise in mathematics, biomedical informatics, and data science. Our hope over time is to expand the center to include joint appointments of faculty from the arts and sciences.

The new center will be led by Dr. Ruslan Medzhitov, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology at Yale. I first met Ruslan in 2015 when I was visiting my daughter. Both of our children (as well as I) majored in multidisciplinary subjects at Yale. One of Yale’s strengths is its multidisciplinary efforts and its ability to bring together diverse students and faculty from a wide range of academic areas to think about the world through many different lenses. Ruslan has had a distinguished career in part by being able to bring leaders from biology, engineering, physics and math together to help solve key problems in biology and medicine.

This personal contribution from the James and Dana Tananbaum Family Charitable Giving Fund is a first step toward a future with a broader understanding of life through collaborative efforts from experts in various disciplines. I expect this to be a long-term play which will hold an increasingly important role in the life sciences over the next century.

There will be more announcements to come, and I look forward to sharing news both of the Yale Center’s progress and future new initiatives.

— Jim Tananbaum