Pending approval by the UC Davis Academic Senate, Bers will also be the first holder of the Joseph Silva Endowed Chair for Cardiovascular Research at UC Davis.
Bers has conducted research for more than three decades on the heart and is the author of the definitive source on how the heart works, called "Excitation-Contraction Coupling and Cardiac Contractile Force," published in 1991 and updated in 2001.
Before coming to UC Davis, Bers had served as chair of the physiology department at Loyola University Chicago since 1992.
"Understanding heart disease, the number-one killer of Americans, is a high-priority goal at UC Davis," said Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences at UC Davis and dean of the School of Medicine. "Dr. Bers brings great expertise in investigating the mechanisms of heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias, further strengthening our basic science research teams in this field. Coupled with our clinical strength in diagnosing and treating cardiac and vascular disease, UC Davis is well positioned to achieve significant medical breakthroughs to prevent and better treat patients with cardiovascular illnesses."
As chair of pharmacology, Bers oversees the basic science department's nine faculty researchers and their laboratory teams who conduct research in several interrelated areas:
- Cardiovascular studies of the heart, its autonomic control and molecular and cellular aspects under normal conditions, heart failure and arrhythmias.
- Genomic, proteomic and cellular signaling studies of how genes are controlled and how information is transmitted to and from the nucleus to control cellular function and systems biology.
- Developing novel targets, methods and drugs that may be valuable in treating cardiovascular, autoimmune and infectious diseases, cancer, epilepsy and fungal infections.
"UC Davis' strengths in human and animal medicine, the biological sciences, biomedical engineering and the national primate center creates the right kind of environment to nurture spontaneous, synergistic collaborations," Bers said. "I look forward to helping bring these strengths together to find ways to understand and fix damaged hearts and blood vessels."
Bers plans to double the size of the department to build upon existing expertise and expand UC Davis' research in cardiovascular medicine.
Bers brings with him significant research funding from the National Institutes (NIH) of Health and the American Heart Association. In particular, he continues as principal investigator on four NIH grants, including a $12 million NIH Program Project Grant that includes researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Loyola University, Chicago, Rush Medical College in Chicago, UC San Diego and, now UC Davis, who are studying the molecular pathways and signaling processes of heart muscle and their effect on heart failure and arrhythmia.
In addition, he will be a co-recipient of a $6 million grant from the international organization, Fondation Leducq, based in Paris, France, which funds transatlantic alliances in cardiovascular research to advance the fight against heart disease to the international level. Bers is one of six lead investigators for the collaborative grant that includes 11 universities in five countries.
Bers received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and doctoral degree in physiology at UCLA. He was also a postdoctoral research fellow in physiology at UCLA and at Edinburgh University in Scotland. He joined the UC Riverside faculty in 1982 and was interim dean of the Division of Biomedical Sciences before joining Loyola University as physiology chair in 1992, where he held the James R. DePauw Endowed Chair.
He is a member of numerous societies and has held leadership positions in several, including the American Heart Association, American Physiological Society, Biophysical Society, Heart Failure Society of America and the International Society for Heart Research for which he is president-elect. He is an associate editor for the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, on editorial boards for the journals, Circulation Research and Cell Calcium, and a member of an NIH grant review study section.
UC Davis Health System is an academic medical center that includes a top-ranked school of medicine, a 577-bed acute care hospital, the proposed Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the unique M.I.N.D. Institute for the study of neurodevelopmental disorders, a comprehensive children's hospital, a level 1 trauma center and outpatient clinics in communities throughout the Sacramento region. Consistently ranked among the nation's top medical schools and best hospitals, UC Davis has established itself as a national leader in telehealth, rural medicine, cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, vascular medicine, and trauma and emergency medicine. Other areas of research strength include clinical and translational science, regenerative medicine, infectious disease, neuroscience, functional genomics and mouse biology, comparative medicine and nutrition, among many others.