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Magee-Womens Research Institute Building Expansion Boosts Science Of Women’s Health


Officials and faculty members representing the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and the University of Pittsburgh today are celebrating the grand opening of a $31 million expansion project that will benefit women worldwide through increased scientific investigations that target gender-based health concerns.

Keynote speaker for the event is JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services and a noted advocate for women’s health research. Dr. Bigby is former director of the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the Harvard Medical School.

“The building expansion is a testament to the commitment of many people – in government and the university and individual philanthropy communities – to the support of vital women’s health research in Pittsburgh,” said James M. Roberts, M.D., MWRI’s founding director and professor and vice chair of research in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The expansion should enable the Institute to recruit more than 100 additional scientists, researchers, clinicians and other health care professionals, he added.

Established in 1992, MWRI was the first research center to focus specifically on health conditions affecting women and infants. Over the past 15 years, the Institute has grown from 20 faculty members to more than 260 scientists and staff.

“The Magee-Womens Research Institute is an important demonstration of Pittsburgh’s commitment to further advance our understanding of the unique health issues facing women,” said Dr. Bigby. “While women’s health research has progressed tremendously over the last two decades, there are many issues that remain to be addressed. Magee will help to close the gap that has resulted from the lack of attention to gender-based issues over the long history of medical research.”

The project adds 70,000 square feet of office, laboratory and support-services space, more than doubling the size of the Institute. This new wing connects to the older building on all seven levels. In addition to the research that will benefit women and infants, the work of these professionals also will strengthen the Pittsburgh economy by creating new jobs in medicine and technology.

“As our research programs have grown, so has the need for more space,” said Deborah Linhart, president and CEO of the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, of which MWRI is a major part. “Magee researchers deserve a state-of-the-art facility to sustain their important work to improve health care for women and infants.”

The new wing utilizes distinctive design elements for laboratory and office spaces to encourage collaboration among investigators and their colleagues. Open rows of laboratory benches stretch the full length of the building, allowing for flexible use of space when a new project requires expansion for additional experiments, equipment or staff.

In addition, the expansion was designed to support environmental sustainability, with extensive use of natural light, recycled materials in flooring, wall coverings and ceiling materials, and low-chemical emission sealants, paints, coatings and carpets. Special equipment also reduces the building’s energy load for heating and cooling year-round. The project was designed by the Astorino architectural firm and built by Massaro Construction Co.

MWRI faculty members also serve on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. In addition, many work as clinicians at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospitals. Areas of research at MWRI include:

Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to preterm birth
Possible effects of infections on pregnant women and their newborns
The impact of depression during and after pregnancy, as well as the effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy
Reproductive infectious diseases, urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders and contraception
Drug development and mechanisms to deliver pharmaceutical compounds directly to the vagina and cervix, particularly for HIV prevention
Genetics and women’s cancers
Potential uses of complementary and alternative medicine practices, such as acupuncture, for menopausal symptoms
MWRI is a member of the Association of Independent Research Institutes, a group of 89 independent, nonprofit research institutes in the United States whose primary mission encompasses a specific research discipline. It is the first such Institute in the country established to focus exclusively on conditions affecting women and infants. Major support is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with project funding from NIH and other sources totaling more than $185 million since 1992.


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