We have entered a new era in biomedical research in which large interdisciplinary teams are being established to answer important scientific questions. Scientists of multidisciplinary backgrounds within universities are combining forces and inter-institutional consortia that include alliances between academia and industry are springing up around the country to generate breakthrough advances. A number of driving forces are at work to establish these collaborative research approaches. By contrast, there also are barriers to be surmounted by institutions with silo mentalities for effective partnerships to be established. In order for this new era of research to reach maximal effectiveness, new approaches to education of the young and retraining of established administrators and scientists must take place. These issues were explored thoroughly at the 2006 annual meeting of the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Chairpersons (AACBNC) that was held in Aruba from January 18 to 21. The theme of this historic meeting was the Future of Interdisciplinary Research and Training: Breaking Down the Barriers. In this introductory article, we discuss the formation of a trendsetting Institute of Biomedical Sciences and Technology, the concept of the AACBNC meeting, and the influence of the Institute on the content of the meeting. The proceedings of this meeting, including Nobel Laureate Papers and Nobel Round-Table Discussions on the future of interdisciplinary research and training, are contained in this special issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine, a journal dedicated to the publication of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences.