UMASS MEDICAL SCHOOL ANNOUNCES NEW RESEARCH BUILDING: Major addition to medical school campus will house more than 100 scientific laboratories

September 30, 1999

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Calling the project the cornerstone of biomedical research in the region for the next millennium, Chancellor and Dean Aaron Lazare, MD, today presented the conceptual design for a new research laboratory building on the medical school campus -- a $100 million facility planned for occupancy in September of 2001.

"This new building will change the face of the campus and the face of medical research in central Massachusetts," says Dr. Lazare.

For the last several years UMMS has experienced one of the highest growth rates of funded research in the country. The new research laboratory building will be a state-of-the-art facility, enabling the medical school to continue its extensive growth in both clinical and basic science research. The building will provide in excess of 200,000 net square feet (nsf) of lab research space in a 350,000 square foot structure. Associated laboratory support functions, common and meeting space, and infrastructure space make up the balance of the facility.

The building will be occupied by a combination of researchers already on the faculty and newly recruited faculty; the design of the building incorporates at least two floors for future expansion. The areas of research to occupy the building have not yet been fully defined but under consideration to be included are cancer, genetics, neurological disorders, tissue engineering, biochemistry and research into the causes of a range of human diseases.

The new facility will have an overall design configuration to meet the needs of a wide and changing variety of individual laboratory functions, and in design concept, will be one of the most efficient laboratory floor plans ever conceived: approximately 70 per cent of each floor will be "net" usable space.

"The building must address the medical school's near-term laboratory needs, but also must be flexible enough to meet future requirements," says Lazare. "And given the increasing importance of information technology for scientific research and communication, there will be a significant investment in high quality infrastructure, and in a design that will encourage collaboration among scientists."

The target date for occupancy is September 2001. According to Dr. Lazare, "While this is ambitious, we have the project team and decision-making capability to succeed. I have made this project the highest priority and committed the resources necessary to make it happen."

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees authorized the Chancellor this year to move this project forward. Over the past four months, a project group of scientists, faculty, administrators and facilities planners have undertaken a complex and comprehensive interview and selection process for three key roles: overall construction management, architecture, and mechanical systems. Beacon Skanska, USA, one of the foremost construction design firms in the world, will be the lead contractor; Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, an architecture firm with a national reputation for laboratory and academic building design, will be the architects. BR+A, of Boston, was chosen as the mechanical systems contractor.

"We started out reviewing the credentials of more than a dozen of the top firms in each of these specialties," says Thomas D. Manning, Vice Chancellor for Operations and Commonwealth Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who will oversee the administration of the project, "because we recognized that it is crucial to have designers and builders who can meet our stringent time requirements while making this truly a building for the ages."

In addition to Tsoi/Kobus, Beacon Skanska and BR+A, key subcontractors on the project include:

  • Strategic Building Delivery: Gladstone/Leff
  • Laboratory Design: GPR Planners Cooperative, Purchase, NY
  • Structural Engineering: LeMessurier Consultants, Cambridge, MA
  • Site Evaluation: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin
  • Core Borings/Soil Conditions: GZA

Key to UMass Medical School's dramatic growth in recent years has been its ability to attract and retain top researchers from around the globe -- researchers who in turn attract top research dollars for their work. In 1998, Congress approved a five-year doubling of National Institutes of Health research funding, while at the same time, an independent assessment of which research universities could expect to secure increased funding from the NIH put UMMS near the top. In order to take advantage of this increased potential funding, UMMS must expand its current research space -- approximately 600,000 square feet in on-campus buildings, plus approximately 83,000 square feet in Biotech Park -- which is densely utilized and overcommitted. It is expected that more than 100 principal investigators will establish laboratories in the new facility.

Funding for the new laboratory building and its investigators will come from three principal sources. The first $30 million comes from the 1998 merger of the UMass Clinical System with Memorial Health Care; at that time, the merger partners committed $15 million each toward support of cutting edge research.

Additionally, $5 million has been pledged by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which plans to hold a series of Labor Day fundraising walks in Worcester to raise money in support of cancer research; the first walk on September 6, 1999, raised over $300,000. This pledge will be complemented by a $33 million fundraising campaign. The sale of Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (HEFA) bonds will overlay the remainder of the construction costs -- bonds that will be retired through the use of cost reimbursements that are part of federal research grants.

No patient care services will be housed in the building, although many of the medical school's researchers also have clinical positions within UMass Memorial, the University's clinical partner. The laboratories will be used solely by the University for research.

The new space will allow UMMS to reorganize and reassign some of its current laboratory space to allow collaboration by grouping researchers with similar projects in close proximity. Space in existing buildings was assigned as researchers moved in and out of the University, leaving a rather hodgepodge arrangement. Further, the age of the UMMS physical plant makes renovation and remodeling a constant presence, with the attendant disruption of important scientific work.

Research at UMMS has already led to exciting advances in the treatment of disease and injuries, and the future promises many more health care delivery breakthroughs. And while patient application is the ultimate goal of UMMS research, economic spinoff to the surrounding region is a significant and important byproduct.

Taken together with sponsorships received from private industry, foundations and other funding sources, UMMS attracted a total of $92.2 million in research funding in 1999.

 

 

BACKGROUNDER 

How does the surrounding Worcester area and central Massachusetts economy benefit when UMass Medical School increases external funding? 

  • Increased research funding allows UMMS researchers to do more and better work, 
  • which attracts more and better researchers and faculty members, 
  • who attract more and better students, 
  • who attract bio- and high-technology employers and support services to the Worcester area, 
  • which pay taxes to support public services, 
  • and which hire Worcester-area employees, 
  • who buy goods and services in the Worcester area, 
  • and who pay taxes to support local, state and federal programs, such as NIH. 

As Mark Roosevelt, president of the Worcester-based Massachusetts Biomedical Initiative, has said, "University research is increasingly the R&D arm for industry. Having a public university in a position to attract and retain companies is a critical advantage."

Additional information available

Tsoi/Kobus & Associates; BR+A; Beacon Skanska, USA; Gladstone/Leff; GPR Planners; LeMessurier Consultants; Vanasse Hangen Brustlin; GZA; AFL-CIO

New Research Building