Release Date: May 16, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Creation of a life-sciences industry and economy for Buffalo Niagara will take an historic step forward with the grand opening of the University at Buffalo's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
An important milestone in Buffalo's transformation from postindustrial, rust-belt city into a major hub for groundbreaking life-sciences research and spin-off biotechnology industry, the Center of Excellence, along with the adjacent Center for Genetics and Pharmacology of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on June 2.
The UB community and the public are invited to the ribbon-cutting, which will be held in front of the adjoined buildings at the corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets.
A series of community events during June will celebrate the opening of the Center of Excellence. They include a science-industry symposium, "Frontiers in Biological Systems," to be held June 13-15 and featuring world-renowned scientists, UB researchers and CEOs of Buffalo biotech companies.
A public open house will be held from 1-4 p.m. on June 11. Three public lectures will be held at the Center of Excellence on June 19-21 as part of the "UBThisSummer" lecture series. This year's UB Business Partners Day Luncheon on June 15, hosted by the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at UB, will be part of the series of grand-opening activities.
Gov. George E. Pataki, who proposed the creation of the Center of Excellence in 2001 as part of a plan to jump-start the New York State economy through creation of high-technology centers of excellence across the state, will be among the distinguished speakers at the ribbon cutting.
Also invited to speak are Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York State Majority Leader Senator Joseph L. Bruno, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, as well as UB President John B. Simpson and David C. Hohn, president and CEO of RPCI.
The four-story, 130,000-square-foot building that houses the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences was constructed by New York State at a cost of $52 million. State funding for the center and its programs to date has totaled $89.4 million. In addition to $27.75 million in direct federal funding, the Center of Excellence has received $3.5 million in funding from the John R. Oishei Foundation and $1.5 million from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. Funding from the private sector has totaled approximately $60 million.
A major research center of the University at Buffalo, the Center of Excellence works in close collaboration with research partners RPCI and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI).
Along with the new HWI building, which opened in May 2005, the Center of Excellence and RPCI's Center for Genetics and Pharmacology constitute the Buffalo Life Sciences Complex on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. New York State funding for construction of the RPCI and HWI buildings has totaled $70 million.
The fact that the three buildings will be connected -- an overhead bridge to be constructed will link the Center of Excellence with the HWI building -- underscores the close collaboration that will occur between the scientists as they work to develop and commercialize new drugs, therapies and biomedical devices. Working together, the three institutions will draw upon their renowned research strengths in genomics, structural biology and bioinformatics, as well as core strengths in cancer biology, neurology, virology and pharmacology.
This research will be aided by the immense computational power of UB's Center for Computational Research (CCR), one of the nation's largest academic supercomputing centers, capable of performing 22 trillion operations per second. CCR is being relocated to the Center of Excellence from the UB North (Amherst) Campus.
By combining Buffalo Niagara's research and computational strengths and by recruiting new scientists to the collaborative effort, the region is well positioned to advance among several U.S. regions pursuing development of a life-sciences industry, according to Bruce A. Holm, UB senior vice provost and executive director of the Center of Excellence.
The Buffalo Niagara region has a 100-year history of groundbreaking medical research. It has produced breakthrough treatments for multiple sclerosis, cancer and stroke, as well as widely used health diagnostics and therapies, such as the PSA test for prostate cancer and a surfactant-replacement drug for infants suffering from respiratory distress syndrome, Holm notes. The majority of DNA sequenced through the human genome project came from volunteers in Western New York, thanks to the proficiency of genetics researchers at RPCI.
In addition, the collaborative approach of three research institutions -- aided by the open-lab design of the new buildings, which breaks down physical and operational barriers to facilitate research collaboration -- is unique among other biotech efforts nationally, Holm says.
"High through-put collaboration is one way we stand out," Holm explains. "We're able to accelerate the standard academic procedure for research and development, which makes us very attractive to industry. In a sense, the buildings are a vessel for rethinking how research institutions produce science."
As an example of this new approach to research and development, six biotech commercialization companies and organizations will reside on the second floor of the Center of Excellence. Such an arrangement is very unusual among academic biotech enterprises, Holm points out, and is intended to accelerate research commercialization and facilitate the spin-off of biotech products and companies in Buffalo Niagara. The 200 researchers occupying the Center of Excellence will have ample opportunity to interact with the commercialization arm of the center, in formal meetings or over morning coffee in the center's café.
"Forty states have academic-industry partnerships for economic development, only we are strategically and architecturally designed to be able to do it," Holm says. "We're better prepared to go from the lab bench to the bedside."
Over the next several months, UB, RPCI and HWI will continue to be engaged in a large recruitment effort to bring in additional world-class scientists to the Buffalo Niagara region. The plan is to recruit "entrepreneurial scientists" who are attracted to state-of-the-art research facilities, unique opportunities for collaborative research and the momentum of the region's growing biotech industry.
"The beautiful new buildings and the combined talents of the three institutions is an amazing draw that is really quite unique," Holm says. "When you combine that with the high quality of life in this region and the growing national awareness of what we are accomplishing here, you have a formula for success that has tremendous potential."
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