Schang, formerly a professor of biochemistry and medical immunology at the University of Alberta, brings an international reputation in research to his new position at Cornell, and says he looks forward to helping the Institute continue to build upon its proud history of excellence in veterinary science and education.
“It took me five minutes at the interview to decide the Baker Institute is where I wanted to be,” said Schang. “Also, I have been doing research for more than 25 years, and I can publish in journals, get patents, raise money, get grants, collaborate, and I can train people in the lab to be successful, but it’s becoming a bit of a routine. I’m looking forward to new challenges, to having an impact on more people.”
When he took on the role of Director of the Institute on September 1, 2016, Schang also assumed directorship of the Cornell Feline Health Center, an organization that provides cat health information to owners and veterinarians and funds research at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Schang brings with him a dynamic research program focused on exploring the ways biologically active “small molecules” affect how viruses replicate.
“In my research, I look for molecules that have an impact on multiple viruses,” Schang says. “We use them as a way to test what the virus needs to replicate or what the virus does to cells.”
This research is productive on two levels: it answers fundamental questions about viruses at a detailed level, and it helps to usher potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals to market. Schang calls this research approach “discovery science” – a way of exploring scientific questions that delivers results that produce new knowledge and serve science, animals, and humanity in the near and long terms.
Schang brings this research philosophy to the Baker Institute, a veterinary research center with a track record of transformative discoveries, including breakthroughs in infectious disease and vaccines, reproduction and genetics. Schang says he will connect with the faculty, staff and trainees in the Baker Institute, the Feline Health Center, and the College of Veterinary Medicine to develop a vision for the future together.
“I don’t come to impose a vision; I come to develop a vision that we all agree upon and make happen,” Schang said.
He says at this point in the Institute’s development, when research funding has become extremely competitive and state support is uncertain, it’s important that a new director from outside the Institute sees challenges and opportunities with fresh eyes.
Like many current and former Baker Institute faculty members, Schang has a veterinary degree (MV, or Medico Veterinario, a veterinary degree granted in his native country, Argentina), which he sees as an asset in biomedical research.
“I want to be involved in training veterinary researchers,” he said. “Vets are perfectly trained in systems biology, and I want to do my part to help younger veterinary researchers to fully develop and reach their potential and bring out all that they have to offer.”