The first facility of the Biodesign Institute at ASU was christened last week in a ceremony marked by bravado, collaboration, and cautionary tales about the future of public health and biomedicine.
The new $73 million, 170,000-square-foot facility on the corner of McAllister Ave. and Orange St. in Tempe will house more than 250 faculty and attendant researchers from a wide swath of departments including bioengineering, biotechnology, genetics, virology, and nanotechnology. The four-story structure features mobile workspace, an open-air atrium, and low-water landscaping.
During his remarks at the opening, ASU President Michael Crow referred to the institute as his “baby,” according to the State Press.
“This building is a tank,” Crow added. “There’s never been a building like this.”
John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy for President George Bush in Washington, was on hand for the streamer-popping ceremony. He compared it to other state-of-the-art bioscience structures cropping up around the country, in hopes of incubating the Next Big Biotech Breakthrough.
“The center is not unique but it certainly has an energy I haven’t seen anywhere else in the country,” Marburger told the crowd.
The first building was paid for in revenues from the Prop. 301 sales tax passed in 2000. The next in the series of four research buildings planned is currently under construction, slated for opening in fall 2005, while the final two facilities have not been funded yet. Officials estimate the total structural cost of the project to exceed $500 million.
“This is no longer science fiction but an unfolding vista of bioengineering,” institute director George Poste said. But he also forecasted that, “a catastrophe is a very sure thing,” referring to what he sees as an imminent flu pandemic and growing biosecurity threats in the U.S. With this combination of rosy optimism and grave portent, Poste emphasized the importance of researching new biomedical pathways, tasks he indicated would be undertaken by scientists between the steel fortified walls and open research areas of the first Biodesign building.
For more information:
“Biodesign institute opens doors at ASU,” East Valley Tribune, 12/15/2004
“Biodesign site to open,” Arizona Republic, 12/14/2004
“Crow dedicates Biodesign building,” The State Press, 12/15/2004