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Elissa Monroe/KUMC Photo Service

The Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center opens its doors Jan. 23. The center will help greatly expand the university's research capabilities.

KU Med opens new avenues for research

Life Sciences Innovation Center opens

By Renee Van Erp

It's a neighborhood unlike any you've ever visited. Spectacular views of Kansas City's northern skyline. Space to share state-of-the-art equipment. And a community of gifted scientists working together to solve the mysteries of medical science, discovering cures that will make life better for patients everywhere.

The doors to this neighborhood open Jan. 23 at the Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center on the KU Medical Center campus. Located at the corner of 39th Street and Rainbow Boulevard, the five-story, 205,000-square-foot facility shows the new heights reached in life sciences research for the greater Kansas City community, Kansas and the region.

What it takes

The new Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center includes

  • 600 tons of structural steel
  • Almost 22 miles of mechanical and plumbing piping
  • Approximately 24,000 tons of concrete
  • 230,000 pounds of metal duct work for HVAC (Comparitively, a Boeing 747 is built with 147,000 pounds of aluminum
  • 32,000 square feet of exterior brick

"The life sciences require an interdisciplinary approach, the kind that's fostered by the laboratories and conference rooms in this facility," said Chancellor Robert Hemenway. "People the world over who suffer from cancer, brain disorders and other debilitating illnesses will be touched by what happens here. The caliber of research in this center will dramatically boost the economic development of this region's life sciences initiatives."

The $57.2 million center is a tribute to public and private partnerships. Under the direction of the University Research Development and Enhancement Corporation headed by Clay Blair, the center is part of a statewide effort to expand research capabilities of Kansas universities. The state is paying the first five years of the construction bonds, with the final 15 years being paid by the KU Medical Center from funds generated by research grants. As a champion for life sciences research, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts served as a catalyst to help bring the project together. In addition, the Hall Family Foundation contributed $27 million to furnish the building with the latest equipment. That gift was part of a $42 million commitment the Foundation made to KU Endowment in 2001.

"The Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center creates an environment that will help us attract top researchers and foster collaboration," said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the medical center and executive dean of the School of Medicine. "Already, with the promise of this new space, we've been able to recruit some of the country's leading physician-scientists away from places such as Vanderbilt, Duke and Emory."

Research programs in the center will focus on liver disease, reproductive sciences, neuroscience and the emerging field of proteomics, which examines the structure of proteins and how they can be used to treat diseases. Investigators can share equipment in common areas, which not only encourages "team science" but also avoids costly duplication. Faculty members moving into the center bring nearly $60 million in extramural funding with them, with approximately one-third of that grant revenue helping to cover overhead costs.

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