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Effective yesterday, neuroscientist Perry Molinoff replaced Neal Nathanson as Penn's vice provost for research.

The post, which carries responsibility for the University's $600 million research operations, had been vacant since Nathanson's resignation on Jan. 30.

Leaving the University in 1995 after 14 years on the faculty, Molinoff worked at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute as vice president of neuroscience and genitourinary drug discovery.

According to Executive Director of the Office of Human Research Gregg Fromell, the search committee maintained a completely confidential search.

"Since last week, we knew internally that [someone] was going to be named today," Fromell said. "But we had no clue who was being interviewed."

Unveiled and ready for action, Molinoff was enthusiastic about Penn and his new position.

"It's a great institution," Molinoff said. "I think it's going to be a very exciting place to be."

Like his predecessor, whose time at Penn saw him serve as chairman of the Department of Microbiology and as vice dean for research and research training at the School of Medicine, Molinoff has old ties to the University. He was the A.N. Richards Professor and Chairman of Pharmacology at Penn from 1981-1995.

"It feels a little bit like coming home," Molinoff said.

During his tenure as a department chairman, Penn Pharmacology rose from 70th to sixth place in the National Institutes of Health's ranking for grants received.

Molinoff said that his close relationship with University Provost Robert Barchi -- himself a medical doctor -- weighed in Penn's favor.

"Bob Barchi and I were colleagues for many years," Molinoff said. "We worked together, we had a grant together."

Molinoff added that working with Barchi was a plus in his decision to return to Penn.

Barchi was equally pleased to see his old colleague.

"President Rodin and I are thrilled that Perry will be heading Penn's extensive research efforts," Barchi said. "His depth of experience in both academe and the private sector makes him perfectly suited to guide our research operation."

At the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, he helped develop and license aripiprazole, a novel antipsychotic medication being marketed by Bristol-Meyers and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.

Molinoff seemed pleased to be an academic once more.

"At the university, your goal is the discovery of new knowledge and the advancement of new knowledge, so it's sufficient to ask what is known, and if it's not known, if it would be interesting," Molinoff said.

"In business, you... ask if I need to know? If I find out this information, would I have a project worth working on? It's more pragmatic; it's a little bit less satisfying, in that you can't follow things just because they're interesting."

Staff reporter Mer Eckstut contributed to this report.

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