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Health Center's new building expands
facilities for biomedical research
May 3, 1999

Eleven new floors dedicated solely to biomedical research will expand laboratory space at the UConn Health Center by more than 40 percent, and strengthen the institution's ability to recruit top-flight scientists and secure new research funding.

Last Tuesday, state officials including Gov. John G. Rowland; Roger Gelfenbien, chair of the Board of Trustees; President Philip E. Austin; Leslie S. Cutler, Health Center Chancellor; and T.R. Anson, Commissioner of Public Works; participated in ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new 167,000 square-foot, $37.9 million building and celebrated the start of a new chapter in the Health Center's history. Gelfenbien also announced that a suite of laboratories in the new building will be named, The John G. Rowland Center for Biosciences, in appreciation of Gov. Rowland's support for the new building.

"This is a major milestone in the 30-year history of the Health Center," Cutler said. "The biomedical and molecular research that is already taking place in this building can ultimately translate to medical breakthroughs and treatments for diseases like cancer, rare genetic conditions, macular degeneration, arthritis, heart disease and more." He noted that the Health Center expects to recruit 40 more research faculty, and their staffs, in the next two years.

The building includes 128 state-of-the-art, basic science laboratories that were designed with input from research faculty to best ensure efficiency and flexibility.

Research space at the Health Center has been tight for more than a decade. A 1987 Department of Public Works study of the campus cited inadequate research space, and sparked plans to construct the new building. Plans were bolstered by the Health Center's 1993 strategic plan which specifically called for major increases in bio-medical research activities.

The University's Board of Trustees and the state Board of Higher Education recently endorsed a new, five-year strategic plan for the Health Center that calls for continued growth in key research areas. Further emphasis will be given to genetic modeling of human disease, molecular genomics, structural biology and biomaterials, biomedical imaging, clinical epidemiology, and computational biology.

The new research building is expected to create an estimated 400 permanent and technical jobs in the next two years and generate millions of dollars in government and industry grants through the work of its research staff. Research staff expect to secure more than $700 million in government and industry grants over the next 20 years.

In addition, special emphasis will be placed on research which can be transferred to industry and start-up businesses, Cutler said.

"By expanding our biomedical research capabilities, we can spur economic growth in the region," he said. "Medical research can create new, high technology jobs with lasting economic benefits to our state. We're eager to partner our unique resources with emerging high technology innovations."

Medical education at the Health Center also stands to benefit from increased research activity. The addition of new faculty members will offer graduate students new opportunities to pursue research and clinical activities, said Richard Berlin, associate dean for research, planning and coordination with the School of Medicine.

"It's a new day for the Health Center," Berlin said. "Now we can be more competitive, renew our faculty and develop expertise in select areas."

Berlin worked closely with the architects during the design process for the new building. He said each floor of the new building is designated for a specific scientific initiative. These designations, where possible, will correspond with similar research in adjacent, existing, laboratory space at the Health Center. There are also plans to upgrade the older labs at the Health Center, improvements that are pending the release of already-approved state capital funds.

Construction of the Academic Research Building was coordinated by the state Department of Public Works and was completed on time and within budget; the architect was S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury; the engineer was BVH Engineers of Bloomfield; and construction administration was provided by Frank E. Downes of New Britain.

Maureen McGuire