Governor, UF open cancer-genetics research complex
University of Florida leaders and Gov. Jeb Bush Nov. 15 officially opened an $84.5 million campus facility that integrates much of the university's cancer and genetics research.
Containing more than 77 million pounds of concrete - enough to build a hefty sidewalk between Gainesville and Jacksonville - the 280,000-square-foot UF Cancer & Genetics Research Complex is the largest research building on campus.
Officials say the complex will boost Florida's biotechnology efforts and serve as a model for interdisciplinary research.
"I congratulate the University of Florida for its commitment to biomedical research in our state," Bush said prior to the event. "The university's cutting-edge facility will advance the latest applications in genetics and cancer research, building on the strength of Florida's growing biotechnology sector."
A five-story research wing of the UF Shands Cancer Center and a six-story Genetics Institute wing are contained in the facility. Also included are the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, which provides support services to scientists, and the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, a premiere forensic anthropology laboratory.
"We are truly in the midst of a renaissance of our research building infrastructure," said Win Phillips, UF's vice president for research, who said planning is also under way for three buildings devoted to research in nanotechnology, biomedical sciences and emerging pathogens. "We expect that by around the summer 2009 we will have added about 600,000 square feet of research space to our campus."
The Cancer & Genetics Research Complex is designed to maximize collaborations among different groups of researchers and to convert scientific ideas into innovative cancer therapies and other beneficial technologies.
"Our collective efforts to find ways to cure cancer and to invent genetic solutions to environmental challenges and opportunities are important for the health and well-being of the people of Florida and the world," said Dr. Douglas Barrett, senior vice president for health affairs. "We think this building - pairing genetic researchers with cancer researchers, people who work on human health and people who work with plants, people who are investigating the mechanisms of life itself - is the essence of collaboration."
Scientists began to occupy the building in June, working on practical problems in medicine, agriculture and environmental management. They hail from the College of Medicine, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and five additional UF Health Science Center colleges.
We're bringing together all kinds of scientists who work on plants and animals and people," said Dr. Kenneth Berns, director of the UF Genetics Institute. "Between the two sides of the building, we're going to have about 60 to 70 faculty. It will be an incredible aggregation of intellectual firepower."
Design work for the building started in June 2002 by Hunton Brady Architects in Orlando. Ellenzweig Associates Architects in Boston was selected as lab planners and Turner/PPI Joint Venture was named construction manager. Work started in December 2003, with costs set at $84.5 million.
About $30 million to help pay for the building came from the university's sale of stock that it owned in a biotechnology company called Regeneration Technologies Inc., which was spun off from UF research. UF officials tout the research complex as a tangible example of how money that is invested in research pays dividends.
Dr. W. Stratford May, director of the UF Shands Cancer Center, is counting on the research complex to fuel the momentum that has caused, for the first time since the 1930s, the death rate from all cancers to decrease in proportion to the growth and aging of the population.
"This building is bricks and mortar, but it's much more than that, because it really provides hope for cancer patients, who know that we're going to do the research, we're going to find the answers, we're going to help them," May said. "That is what I think this building means to our region and nationally. The UF Shands Cancer Center is a major player in the fight against cancer and this will help us synergize and amplify what we are doing."