The Institute for Environmental Medicine was established in 1968 by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in recognition of the increasing need for study of the interaction of man with the environment. This formal step recognized a program with origins dating back several decades and the interests of Professor C.J. Lambertsen in research and training related to the undersea environment.
In the early 1960's, Dr. Lambertsen undertook the development of an environmental research center and, with major contributions from the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, the Fannie E. Ripple Foundation, and the Harrison Foundation for Surgical Research, a system of interconnected chambers capable of simulating pressures ranging from 80,000 feet in altitude to 2,000 feet of sea water was installed. This system became functional in 1970 and, for the next 15 years, scientists from universities, federal agencies, and industry collaborated through the Institute on a series of multidisciplinary research programs designated as "The Predictive Studies". These pioneering studies probed the pathophysiology of oxygen toxicity, diving related stresses, and mechanisms of hypoxic response in humans.
Dr. Aron B. Fisher succeeded Dr. Lambertsen as Institute Director in 1985. Dr. Fisher brought to the Institute established programs in cell biology of the lung and basic mechanisms of oxidant injury. Subsequent recruitments included junior faculty with research interests in molecular genetics, biochemical toxicology, and immunopharmacology. As a result, the Institute has maintained its traditional excellence in systems physiology and toxicology and has established premier programs to study cellular, biochemical, and molecular aspects of environmental issues.
The Institute utilizes approximately 18,000 square feet of contiguous space on the ground floor and basement of the John Morgan Building of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Major renovations completed in 1987 and 1996 have provided "state-of-the-art" facilities for conducting modern biomedical research. Within the Institute spaces are offices for 12 investigators and their associates, administrative offices, seminar and conference rooms, a microcomputer center, core research facilities, and research laboratories for carrying out a broad range of biomedical investigation on organisms ranging from unicellular to humans. The Institute also provides facilities for a hyperbaric medicine referral and treatment service that is unique in the tri-state area.