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UT Health Science Center Breaking Ground on New Research Facility


An outdoor groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 30, will mark the start of construction of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s $161.5-million Research Park Complex.

The Research Park Complex will encompass 393,000 gross square feet and comprise three independent programs functionally connected into one facility rather than as detached, stand-alone structures. The three projects are: the Dental Branch Replacement Building, the Neuroscience Building and the Biomedical Research and Education Facility (BREF).

The building site is 7.5 acres at the corner of Cambridge Street and East Road in the UT Research Park, a 100-acre area being jointly developed by the UT Health Science Center and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“We are very excited to be able to build a neuroscience center, a research and educational building devoted to stem cell research, and a new dental school within the UT Research Park in Houston,” said James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center at Houston. “These buildings are very important to our research and educational efforts and to our abilities to ultimately treat patients in better ways that may ultimately prevent disease. Beyond these buildings themselves, it will remain very important for the UT Health Science Center to continue to recruit some of the most outstanding physician-scientists and scientists to work in these facilities and ones who have a burning passion and deep commitment to cure and prevent disease.”

Distinguished guests expected to participate in the groundbreaking event include: Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, John W. Barnhill, Jr., a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents and chairman of its Facilities Planning and Construction Committee; and UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof.

“This is a very exciting time to be at the UT Health Science Center and to have the opportunity to work in world-class facilities devoted to new discovery and disease prevention,” Willerson said. “We are very grateful to the UT System, the UT Regents, the Texas Legislature and the generous people of Houston for making these new buildings possible.”

While each program will maintain its own identity, the university will foster enhanced collaboration by combining the programs as a multi-purpose complex, as well as achieving savings in construction costs and time. The Research Park Complex will include:

UT Dental Branch Replacement Building:
This part of the complex will total 240,000 gross square feet and replace the existing, 52-year-old facility located at 6516 M.D. Anderson Blvd. Plans call for classrooms and other teaching and meeting spaces; research laboratories and computerized simulators; patient service areas such as reception, treatment, accounting and patient records; shared spaces such as a learning resource center; and general administrative areas for faculty and staff.

“This new building is about more than just a replacement facility; it’s about designing a flexible space that capitalizes on our strong clinical programs while growing our research enterprise for the advancement of a profession and health of our community,” said UT Dental Branch Dean Catherine Flaitz, D.D.S. “Moving to this new location will improve patient access while opening doors to exciting research initiatives in tissue regeneration, neuroscience, nanotechnology and advanced imaging with a focus on head and neck disorders.”

Flaitz estimates that a new building will enable her school to educate 20 percent more dental students each year, noting that 98 percent of the school’s graduates are licensed to practice in Texas. “It’s an exciting time for the UT Dental Branch as we begin our second century of dental education in a new, contemporary home,” she said.

The dental facility will cost about $90 million, depending on the equipment, technology and other requirements for an updated dental school.

A combined commitment of $60 million from state Tuition Revenue Bonds and $18 million in UT System Permanent University Funds already is in hand. The remainder will be solicited from foundations and private individuals in the “Open to Health” fund-raising campaign headed by chairman Stephen Schwartz, D.D.S., and development officer John Greer.

The building fund has just received a $1 million gift from orthodontist R.G. “Wick” Alexander of Arlington, which is the largest philanthropic gift in the UT Dental Branch’s 102-year history. Alexander is a 1962 graduate of the UT Dental Branch who returned for a master’s degree and orthodontic certification in 1964.

Completion of the UT Dental Branch at Houston’s new home is estimated for 2010.

Neuroscience Building:
A total 69,000 gross square feet of the complex will be occupied primarily by faculty and staff of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Collaborative neuroscience research will involve about 250 faculty, fellows, residents and staff in addition to outpatients and participants in clinical studies.

“This building will galvanize translational research activities in the neurosciences on the South Campus,” said Jerry Wolinsky, M.D., interim dean of the UT Medical School at Houston. “I see this facility as a hub for the expansion of exciting research on human behavior.”

Wolinsky identified neuroscience as “the new frontier of medicine” and a focus for many prominent UT clinicians and researchers.

The Neuroscience Building will replace the 45-year-old Mental Sciences Institute at 1300 Moursund, a location that has been sold to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for future development.

The Neuroscience Building’s expected cost is $22.9 million.

Biomedical Research and Education Facility:
The 84,000 gross square feet of the Biomedical Research and Education Facility (BREF) will primarily contain research and support spaces – both wet labs and dry labs – with a focus on adult stem cell studies. Exploration of stem cell discoveries and new cell therapies with collaborators such as the Texas Heart Institute and M. D. Anderson’s scientists will require multiple tissue culture laboratories.

The total cost of the BREF is projected at $41.1 million.

Later phases of construction at the site will likely include a campus parking garage with capacity for 400 vehicles and, with future expansion, additional spaces.

Next to the Research Park Complex will be the 315,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research (CABIR), a collaboration between M. D. Anderson and the UT Health Science Center and in cooperation with GE Healthcare and the Texas Enterprise Fund. Already under construction and scheduled for completion in late 2009, the six-story research facility will provide a multi-technology translational imaging core and will accommodate state-of-the-art research laboratories for synthetic and analytical chemistry, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology and for production of clinical-grade imaging agents.

“The proximity of the new complex to CABIR and the already anticipated acquisition of high-field imaging for non-invasive imaging of information processing in the human brain will make this a workshop in the immediate service of our patients with troubled minds,” said Wolinsky. “The new facility will help to catapult our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences to the forefront of research and therapy behavioral disorders.”

The CABIR also will house UT’s new Department of Biomedical Engineering and the nanoparticle program of Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., professor and director of nanotechnology at UT’s Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM) and president of the Alliance for NanoHealth.

According to Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D., UT Health Science Center’s executive vice president for research, the synergy created by the CABIR facility and the Research Park Complex will enable scientists and engineers to work together and accelerate the development of new technologies.

“Our goal is to bring together some of our most talented scientists and biomedical engineers in an environment that will foster their collaboration with colleagues at M. D. Anderson, GE Healthcare and other institutions throughout the Texas Medical Center,” Davies said.

The UT System Board of Regents approved the scope, funding adjustments and basic design development for the project at their Aug. 22-23 meeting in Austin.

The Research Park Complex is included in the FY 2008-2013 Capital Improvement Program with a total project cost of $161.5 million – $60 million from Tuition Revenue Bond proceeds, $59.1 million from Permanent University Fund Bonds, $19.5 million from Unexpended Plant Funds, and $22.9 million from other sources, including gifts.


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