Stanford University Bio-X Initiative

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Stanford University Bio-X Initiative is part of Stanford University and is located in the James H. Clark Center in Stanford, California, adjacent to Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

The Bio-X program at Stanford University brings clinicians, biomedical and life science researchers together with engineers, physicists and computational scientists to tackle the complexity of the body in health and disease. The major theme of Bio-X is to unlock the secrets of the human body by treating body and brain as a whole assembly of complex organ systems that interact with each other dynamically. To succeed in this mission, every tool in the scientists’ tool kit is needed, and we need to invent new tools. Faculty representing all areas of science and technology making significant discoveries, inventing and training future generations of scientists.

Rather than simply study genes, molecules, or even organs in isolation, Bio-X investigators attempt to understand entire systems within the body. More than 400 faculty members from more than 60 departments have joined Bio-X teams,[1] and more than 90 students from across the University have received Bio-X graduate fellowships.[2] These students and faculty work on a broad spectrum of research problems that share at least one of the four goals of Bio-X: to image and simulate life from molecules to mind, to restore the health of cells and tissues, to decode the genetics of health and disease, and to design therapeutic devices and molecular machines.

Carla J. Shatz is the Director of Bio-X since 2008.


The cornerstone of the Bio-X program is the seed grant fund Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program, IIP, which provides critical funding for early-stage, interdisciplinary research.[3]

Bio-X also has the important goal of training a new generation of scientists and engineers who are unconstrained by traditional, discipline-bound thinking. Bio-X Fellowships encourage innovation by providing tuition and stipend to promising graduate students for up to three years while they pursue interdisciplinary research projects. This highly competitive program supports 30 fellows at a time from around the university—working to bridge gaps between biology and other disciplines, such as physics, engineering, computer science, and chemistry.[4]

Through the Bio-X Ventures program, Bio-X also incubates exceptional research programs that rely on large-scale, interdisciplinary collaborations beyond the scope of the modest seed grants funded by the Interdisciplinary Initiative Program.[5] New incentives and greater investments enable larger groups of Stanford faculty to collaborate, invent, and explore new fields and technologies. Bio-X Ventures also supports Bio-X Innovation Labs, providing space and resources for the rapid development and dissemination of new technologies well before they are available as “off-the-shelf” equipment.

The first Bio-X Venture is called Bio-X NeuroVentures—a university-wide research initiative that incubates exceptionally creative ideas that have great potential for unlocking the secrets of the brain. With the support of NeuroVentures, researchers are working to rapidly advance the new field of Optogenetics, which combines light and genetics to turn on or turn off specific cells in the body. Optogenetics technology will enable scientists to understand previously uncharted areas of the brain and allow them to renew cells, tissues, and even organs that were disabled by injury or disease. Other areas of interest include imaging and stimulating the human brain, the study of human decision-making, and deciphering the neural code. Bio-X NeuroVentures also fosters conversations between faculty from multiple fields to identify particularly promising new approaches to interdisciplinary brain research. Bio-X NeuroVentures will permit researchers to immediately pursue the most promising of these new approaches.[6]

The James H. Clark Center[edit]

The James H. Clark Center, completed in 2003, serves as the hub for Bio-X. Situated both symbolically and physically at the crossroads leading to the School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the School of Engineering, and the School of Humanities and Sciences, the Clark Center features flexible laboratory spaces and shared equipment that encourage unprecedented levels of collaboration among researchers from an extraordinary array of disciplines. The center was explicitly designed to encourage serendipitous encounters among faculty and graduate students that can lead to totally new collaborations that revolutionize understanding of human biology in health and disease.