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Structurally sound

Final phases of Structural Biology Center completed

David McKinney/University Relations

This 360-degree view shows the interior of the recently completed Structural Biology Center, including from left, a student work space, research lab, office and view of the atrium. The final two phases are complete and research is taking place. A dedication and public open house for the west campus building is planned for Oct. 23.

It contains the largest magnet in Kansas and huge libraries but very few books. It contains lots of students but no actual classrooms. Parts of it are "old" and parts of it are brand new. Give up?

The answer to the riddle is KU's Structural Biology Center, known as SBC, located on west campus at the center of an emerging biosciences research complex. The first two segments of the building were completed in 2004. Two new wings, under construction since 2006, will be dedicated at a special Homecoming Week ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 23. A public open house will follow.

"The SBC is a tremendous asset for KU and our bioscience researchers," said Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies. "The original building, with its 800 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, was an important first step. The new additions are an even greater investment in the future of KU research. And the timing couldn't have been better."

SBC will house the recently announced Specialized Chemistry Center, backed by a $20.2 million National Institutes of Health award. One of the new wings was built specifically to support the labs and students of Blake Peterson, who joined the KU faculty this spring as a Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar.

SBC also houses an NIH-funded Center of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development, plus the High-Throughput Screening Laboratory (both of which use "libraries" made up of molecules rather than books). It also contains the Center for Cancer Experimental Therapeutics, an NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence. All three facilities relocated this summer from KU's Life Sciences Research Laboratory at 15th and Wakarusa Streets, freeing up space for other uses.

"The SBC is the hub of the entire west campus," said Warren. "It's where all roads meet." The Multidisciplinary Research Building is a short walk away, as is the Higuchi Biosciences Center and the Biotechnology Innovation and Optimization Center.

"The new School of Pharmacy building will be just to the north," said Warren, "and across the street will be the planned Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Wet-Lab Incubator. The core service labs in SBC potentially support all of this research activity. Together, it means KU can facilitate start-up companies, collaborate with industry and pursue other kinds of commercialization. SBC is a tool for great research and an economic development resource for Kansas."

Combined, the two additions feature 44,000 square feet of space and were built at a total cost of $22.2 million, with the KBA making a significant contribution. The rest was financed using state bonds backed by the KU Center for Research.

While SBC was built in four phases, the numbers have been "phased" out and the entire facility has a single name. The main entrance to the SBC is now on the west end, adjacent to the MRB parking lot, and opens into a two-story skylighted atrium surrounded by labs and offices for staff and students. Also nearby is the Park and Ride Lot, completed in 2006.

What might be next for west campus?

"KU needs additional modern lab space to support our growing research in drug development and delivery," said Warren. "There's still a large open field just south of SBC and MRB."

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