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The creation of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in 2009 was inspired by the worldwide need for new and novel medicines to effectively diagnose and treat disease. The department was officially approved by UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, on February 25, 2009.

The department was the idea of UCSF faculty members Kathy Giacomini, PhD, and Sarah Nelson, PhD, together with School of Pharmacy faculty members Andrej Sali, PhD, and Chao Tang, PhD, who first discussed the concept in early fall 2006. It would be a new department with a new mission, formed from a union of the Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy, led by Giacomini, and the Program in Bioengineering in the School of Medicine, led by Nelson. The concept for a new department was subsequently refined and embraced by the two department faculties, and gained approval by the respective deans, their School faculties, and ultimately the San Francisco Division of the UC Academic Senate. It is UCSF's first inter-School department.

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