Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

Expert on fish genetic transfers leaving UM center


A pioneer in the genetic engineering of fish has been hired away from the Center of Marine Biotechnology in Baltimore to run a new biotechnology center at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Thomas T. Chen, 52, will leave July 1, according to Dr. Madilyn Fletcher, director and professor at COMB, which is part of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

"We will be sorry to see him go because he's a real strong researcher," Dr. Fletcher said. "But he will remain an adjunct professor and continue to do collaborative research" with the institute.

Dr. Chen went to work for the institute in 1986 and for a time was its acting provost, and associate director of faculty development at COMB.

He is regarded as a world leader in research into the transfer of genes from one species of fish to another to increase the production of growth hormones. The technology enables the fish to grow larger and faster. The work is important to the growing aquaculture industry.

"He has continued to work on the molecular biology of growth hormone genes," Dr. Fletcher said. "The studies are continuing . . . in collaboration with Auburn University" in Alabama.

COMB, with 14 faculty and 62 staff members, is scheduled to move beginning March 15 to larger, more modern laboratories at the Columbus Center in the Inner Harbor.

Dr. Fletcher said there are plans to add personnel, but the new researchers' specialties might not include work with "transgenic," or genetically altered, fish.

"We will be looking for the strongest people, but not necessarily working in the same specific field."

Thomas G. Giolas, dean of the University of Connecticut's graduate school and chairman of the school's search committee, said, "The Maryland institute is considered one of the most successful in the world.

At Connecticut, Dr. Chen will join the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He will oversee the Biotechnology Center and the National Laboratory for Analytical Ultracentrifugation.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad