BAR HARBOR — At last week’s annual meeting of the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL), President Kevin Strange announced that he plans to step down in 2018. Both Strange and board Chairman Peter Allen said the focus over the next few years is to continue to position the lab to be sustainable.
“The board asked Kevin to transform this lab from a seasonal facility to a highly regarded research institution,” said Allen. “No one here could have imagined the lab’s success without Kevin’s being here.”
Since Strange informed the board of his decision in 2015, the board, said Allen, has been planning both the transition and the search for a new president.
In 2013, the laboratory received a $13 million COBRE (Center of Biomedical Research Excellence) grant to support the growth of the Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine. This award, which expires in 2017, can be renewed for up to 10 years and $18-22 million. One of Strange’s goals before retiring is to prepare the renewal grant, a grant that will help to ensure the lab’s long-term sustainability.
During Strange’s seven-year tenure and with the support of its staff and many donors, the MDIBL has developed a core research focus on the biology of aging and regeneration, has recruited six outstanding researchers, established a for-profit regenerative medicine company, developed highly regarded outreach programs, expanded its education program and raised $42 million in federal, state and private funding.
The lab also honored two longtime corporation members – Ed Benz and Patricia Hand. Benz, who heads the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, began conducting research at the MDIBL in the summer of 1988 and has served on the board for many years.
Regularly, the board has asked Benz difficult questions, and as former Treasurer Wistar Morris said, “Ed always provides thoughtful answers to difficult questions.” In recognition of his long-standing commitment to and support of the lab, the lab named cottage No. 3 in honor of Benz and his wife, Margaret Vettese Benz.
Hand, until her retirement earlier this year, was the lab’s vice president and the principal investigator on the INBRE (Idea Network of Biological Research Excellence). Since 2001, Hand has led the network of 13 Maine public and private colleges, universities and research institutions. In addition to providing opportunities for students to conduct hands-on research, the INBRE program teaches students to work independently and collaboratively – skills that employers value.
“Although MDI Biological Laboratory is leading the effort, we could not do this without our partners,” said Hand in 2014 when INBRE was awarded an $18.4 million grant.
Allen restated the comments various employees have made about Hand and her importance to the growth of MDIBL. Development Direct Jeri Bowers credits Hand with always putting the institution first while looking out for the employees. In awarding Hand a plaque from the Northeast region of INBRE, Allen said that it would be hard to imagine the MDIBL without her, for she has been the “glue that holds everything together.”
As Strange and Jane Disney, education director, pointed out, the MDIBL continues to add new courses and programs, including Comparative and Experimental Approaches to Aging Biology, which brought 20 leading experts to the lab this summer. This week, 10 high school and 36 undergraduate students, all of whom conducted research over the summer at the MDIBL, will present their work in talks and posters.
In his treasurer’s report, Thomas Boyd said that the lab’s total net assets at the end of 2015 increased by approximately $100,000 over 2014. Forty-two percent of the lab’s funding comes from federal grants and contracts. The lab also receives funds to support visiting scientists from the Salisbury Cove Research Fund at the Maine Community Foundation.