New facilities provide support for novel bio collaborations

October 19, 2007

By hammersmith

Three new facilities—one in Phoenix, two in Flagstaff—are enabling Arizona’s drive to support collaborative research initiatives with immediate, real world applications. Two have just celebrated their openings; the third broke ground this month.


Arizona Biomedical Collaborative

Robert SheltonThe Oct. 15 dedication of the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative building 1 (ABC1) on the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus marked the beginning of another historic collaboration between the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Local and state elected officials, both universities’ presidents, and faculty and students praised the arrangement that will bring students, faculty, and researchers from UA and ASU together under the same roof.

“This building represents a biomedical bonanza, with development in the latest technology for doctors and developing drugs for patients,” said Mark Haussler, head of the College of Medicine’s basic medical science department, in the Arizona Republic.

Two floors of the 86,000-square-foot building are occupied by research labs for the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, in partnership with ASU. The other two floors house ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics. Construction of the $29.6-million facility was funded from the state Legislature’s 2003 appropriation of $440 million for new research facilities at the three state universities.

The two undertakings brought together in the ABC1 building are well-matched: both are enrolling their inaugural classes of students this fall and both emphasize personalized medicine—the tailoring of treatment regimens to the specific genetic makeup and case history of each patient. A hallmark of the College of Medicine’s Phoenix branch is its preparation of students to be practitioners of personalized medicine; to a significant extent, doing so involves employing the technological breakthroughs achieved by biomedical informatics.

Demonstrating the synergy that the two universities want to achieve, Edward Shortliffe, dean of the College of Medicine, holds a joint appointment in ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics; Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the ASU School of Computing and Informatics, is an affiliate faculty member at the College of Medicine.

“I can’t think of a better environment. There are common areas where the students mingle and the scientists mingle,” said Vimla Patel, vice-chair of the biomedical informatics department, in the Republic.

Ultimately, the biomedical campus—already home to other College of Medicine buildings, the Translational Genomics Institute (TGen), and the Phoenix Union Bioscience High School—will include several more collaborative and intersecting programs, including branches of the UA College of Pharmacy and Northern Arizona University’s Allied Health programs. ASU’s College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation is only a few blocks away.

Northern Arizona Science, Technology, and Clean Energy Center

NASTC GroundbreakingJust one day after the ABC1 building’s dedication, leaders from the City of Flagstaff, NAU, and the greater Flagstaff community held a celebration of their own: the groundbreaking for the Northern Arizona Science, Technology, and Clean Energy Center, a 10,000-square-foot incubator for researchers and entrepreneurs.

The Center will provide a launch point for high-technology start-up companies in northern Arizona. Situated on the campus of the U.S. Geological Survey on McMillan Mesa in Flagstaff, the Center will be adjacent to the Science and Technology Park, a 200,000 square-foot development by the Plaza Cos. intended to provide lab and office space to emerging companies.

“While the Center will be located here on the Mesa, it will be serving all of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments’ region,” said Mayor Joe Donaldson of Flagstaff. “The Center is more than a building; it is a symbol of the future direction of our economic development. It is all about partnerships.”

The incubator, with a total expected cost of $5 million, was funded by a combination of City of Flagstaff funds and the transfer of a $2.5 million grant from NAU, and benefitted from the support of the federal Economic Development Administration and other local governments of northern Arizona. Mandates of the grant that NAU transferred mean that the incubator must be ready to welcome tenants within a year.

The building will be operated by the nonprofit Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technology (NACET). That initiative’s new president and CEO, Thomas Rainey, previously directed the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. Rainey will oversee the incubator’s construction and concentrate on fundraising to support its operating budget, approximately $400,000 per year.

“This facility will be an important first step of our collaborative effort to partner with NAU in technology transfer and commercialization, as well as working with entrepreneurs in Flagstaff and throughout northern Arizona in developing their companies,” said Lavelle McCoy, Chairman of NACET.

NAU Applied Research and Development

Applied Research & Development BuildingThe incubator groundbreaking came on the heels of the Sept. 27 grand opening of NAU’s Applied Research and Development (ARD) building, a model of environmentally friendly design that houses several of the university’s most innovative and collaborative research programs and offices.

“The Applied Research and Development building is an extraordinary example of what it means to be a steward of place,” said NAU President John Haeger. “The teaching and learning we do today will have profound impact in generations to come as we grapple with complex ecological problems.”

The ARD building will house two of NAU’s most renowned research facilities, the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, and the Keim Lab. Biology professor Paul Keim, an expert on anthrax and other biological pathogens, also oversees Flagstaff-based TGen North, the research institute’s Pathogen Genomics Division.

Other ARD tenants include the Center for Sustainable Environments, the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, and the office of NAU’s Vice President for Research.

NAU expects the ARD building to be the second Arizona facility to receive a prestigious “Platinum” designation under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. It will be the first “Platinum” building constructed at high-elevation, where temperature extremes and intense sunlight substantially complicate efforts to design an environmentally friendly structure.

For more information:

UA, ASU dedicate medical research center,” The Arizona Republic, 10/15/2007

Green being: NAU opens earth-friendly ARD building,” Inside NAU 10/03/2007

CEO hired for incubator,” The Arizona Daily Sun, 10/09/2007