Kemnitz to lead Regional Primate Research Center
June 30, 1999
Joseph W. Kemnitz, a Medical School professor and an authority on the physiology of aging, has been named director of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center.
Kemnitz becomes the fourth director of the center he has led on an interim basis since the fall of 1996. He assumes the directorship of a key university research center with a staff of 133 people, an annual budget of nearly $15 million, and world-renowned programs of research in developmental and reproductive biology, AIDS, aging and primate conservation, among others.
Previously, Kemnitz served as a senior scientist and associate director of the center, having joined the center staff in 1976 as a research associate. In addition, he holds an appointment as a professor of physiology.
In naming Kemnitz to lead one of UW-Madison's largest and most visible laboratories, Graduate School Dean Virginia Hinshaw says Kemnitz possesses a combination of dedication, proven leadership skills and a thorough knowledge of the center's research potential.
"There are only eight primate centers in the United States and such centers are viewed as national research resources," Hinshaw says. "They meet a critical need for research on diseases which impact our nation and world. Directing such a center requires strong dedication, broad knowledge and the ability to work with many different people - all skills that Joe Kemnitz certainly has."
Supported primarily by the National Institutes of Health through an annual base grant of $4.5 million, the center is one of eight such centers nationwide. It houses nearly 1,200 primates of two species, rhesus macaques and common marmosets, and serves as a core research facility for scientists from UW-Madison and elsewhere.
Kemnitz, with three degrees from UW-Madison, including a doctorate in physiological psychology, is an expert on eating behavior, obesity and its effects on blood sugar; and the relationship between reproductive function and energy regulation. For nearly a decade, Kemnitz has studied the influence of restricted but healthy diets on metabolism and aging.
As an administrator, Kemnitz directed the center through one of its most difficult periods when the center, under intense public scrutiny, moved primates from an aging facility at Vilas Park Zoo to the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center and the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, Texas.
During the same period, Kemnitz helped the center grow and modernize. He led a push to obtain significant NIH funding and support for a major building addition to be completed this fall. Under Kemnitz's direction, the center's research programs have expanded, and its growing core programs continue to improve support for the many scientists who use the center. More than 200 scientists from UW-Madison and around the country conduct research there.
Kemnitz says his top priority will be to extend the WRPRC record of first-rate biomedical research and studies of basic primate biology. "This entails attracting outstanding scientists and maintaining an integrated, multidisciplinary program that efficiently utilizes available facilities and resources," he says.
Kemnitz says we now live in a golden age of biology and biomedicine, and numerous critical advances in our understanding evolve from research with non-human primates. He cited watershed studies of embryonic stem cells, cells with the potential to grow into any tissue in the body, as one key example. That work in humans, Kemnitz noted, was made possible by primate studies conducted at the WRPRC.
"We are also learning about the biology of aging, the genetics of theimmune system, vaccines, and about the complex interactions of brain function, experience and behavior. These are examples of current strengths in our program that must be maintained."
As director, Kemnitz will be paid an annual salary of $125,000.