June 23, 2014

New U-M hearing research institute director named

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For more than 50 years, scientists at the Kresge Hearing Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School have worked to obtain new knowledge about the basic biology of the human ear and the conditions that affect it. Now, a new director will bring the institute into a new era.

Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D.

The university’s Board of Regents have approved the appointment of Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., a Harvard Medical School professor in Neurology and Otolaryngology and leading researcher in the interface between the brain and the ear.

Corfas, who serves as director of basic research in Otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital in Boston, will join U-M on July 1 as both a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and director of KHRI.

A native of Argentina and a graduate of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Corfas trained at the Washington University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School before joining the Harvard faculty in 1992. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms involved in the development, function and maintenance of the nervous system and in using this knowledge to understand nervous system disorders and develop new therapies to treat them. 

“It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the recruitment of Gabriel Corfas to our faculty and Kresge, which will immediately elevate Michigan's standing in hearing research world-wide,” says Carol Bradford, M.D., FACS, chair of Otolaryngology. “The new director's vision is to build the internationally-renowned Institute into a groundbreaking center of regenerative medicine in which scientists and physicians collaborate to uncover and solve the problems posed by hearing impairment.”

Kresge’s 13 faculty-led research teams focus on the basic biology of all aspects of the human ear and sense of hearing, including deafness, tinnitus and head and neck cancer. Its research programs include multi-disciplinary projects in behavior, morphology, physiology, molecular biology and genetics, bioengineering, pharmacology and biochemistry.

Established by the Regents in 1960 and opened in 1963, KHRI has had just three directors since its founding: Merle Lawrence, Josef Miller, Ph.D., and Jochen Schacht, Ph.D. After 14 years as director, Schacht will continue his research as director of the Auditory Biochemistry and Molecular Biology lab at Kresge.

Integral to Kresge’s efforts are its many training programs for up-and-coming scientists, including a summer program for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students, and the Hearing, Balance, and Chemical Senses Program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. It also offers weekly scientific seminars.