Kansas City, Kan. Hailing it as a great step in establishing the Kansas University Medical Center as a champion of research and curing diseases, KU and state leaders cut a DNA-shaped ribbon Tuesday to open the $57.2 million Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center.
"We've got very good and talented people working here. They are going to make discoveries I think that have the potential to change people's lives," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said.
For the past few years, the medical center has recruited scientists and researchers for the 205,000-square-foot, five-story building. Each floor includes laboratories for research teams that will work to fight liver disease, infertility, obesity, diabetes, brain health and nerve function. The center is expected to employ about 300 people.
"It should be viewed as another step toward the ultimate goal of being a pre-eminent academic medical center. We are at a critical moment in the future of the Kansas University Medical Center, our region and the state of Kansas," said Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, which contributed $27 million to equip the new building.
The building on the medical center's Kansas City, Kan., campus is part of the University Research and Development Act that the Kansas Legislature passed in 2001 to fund bioscience research through projects across the state.
The state is paying the first five years of the construction bonds, while funding generated by research grants will pay the remaining 15 years.
"We bring to us in this building $58 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, with plans for doubling that in five years," said Paul Terranova, the medical center's vice chancellor for research and program director for reproductive sciences in the building.
Nelson Galle, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, heralded the center's opening as a private and public partnership that will help fulfill scientific duties to fight today's health risks.
KU and state leaders also credited U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., as a catalyst for motivating legislators to fund the initiative along with former Gov. Bill Graves. The nearly 200 people at Tuesday's ceremony watched a videotaped speech by Roberts.
Gary Sherrer, a former lieutenant governor, said the legislation that helped fund the new Life Sciences Innovation Center was significant because it focused on "vision" and cooperation.
"You don't build a future on fear. You build it on hope," Sherrer said.
Hemenway, Terranova and Barbara Atkinson, the medical center's executive vice chancellor, agreed that the building's design fosters a collaborative environment by bringing researchers in similar areas together as they work. GLPM Architects Inc. in Lawrence worked with a St. Louis firm to design the building.
Lane Christenson, who works in the Center for Reproductive Services, said he and colleagues on his floor have agreed to pool their resources and ideas to work to fight a form of ovarian cancer.
"What's going on here are a bunch of very dedicated scientists that are going about the discovery of diseases and therapies that will make a difference to people," Hemenway said.