Ribbon Cut: Official Opening of Sherman Center

The University of Massachusetts Medical School enters a new era of biomedical research, medical education and campus collaboration with the opening of the $400 million, state-of-the-art Albert Sherman Center. Home to Nobel Prize-winning research and the cornerstone of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act, the Sherman Center was unveiled to the public on January 30, 2013 a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Deval Patrick.

“The completion of the Albert Sherman Center is a transformative event in the history of the Commonwealth’s medical school,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “It would be hard to overstate the importance of this new center to our campus, or the positive impact of the work that will go on within it.”


“Bringing a project as large and complex as the Sherman Center to reality, on-time and within budget, is a remarkable achievement that took thousands of people to accomplish,” Collins said. “From the leaders of state government who had the foresight to invest in the life sciences, to those who helped envision a new design for medical education and research, to the hands that turned the first shovel of dirt and applied the last finishing touch of paint within, every person involved in creating this outstanding facility should be proud of their contribution.”

“Our investments in education, innovation and infrastructure have come together to support the completion of the Albert Sherman Center here at UMass Medical School,” Gov. Patrick said. “This landmark project is a testament to what is possible when we work together to invest in this generation and the next.”

Named for UMass Medical School’s former vice chancellor for university relations, the Albert Sherman Center was built in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and funded in part by $90 million from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which administers Gov. Patrick’s Life Sciences Initiative, enacted by the Massachusetts legislature in 2008.

“As we continue to invest in innovation in all regions of the Commonwealth, the Sherman Center at UMass Medical School stands out as a leading research and educational institution not just for Worcester County but for the entire state,” said Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray. “We look forward to the tremendous knowledge and growth this institute will lend in finding cures to complex diseases, supporting the medical and life sciences industries, and creating jobs and investment in Massachusetts.”

Completion of the Sherman Center nearly doubles the research capacity of the Worcester campus with 512,000 square feet of interdisciplinary research and education space designed to maximize collaboration among scientists, educators and students across multiple fields. It is the new home of the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster, comprising the RNA Therapeutics Institute, the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Gene Therapy Center, and contains wet research space for more than 90 investigators. These translational scientists pursue novel bench-to-bedside research in emerging scientific fields with the goal of developing new innovative therapies for diseases ranging from cancer to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and cystic fibrosis.

“This is a major accomplishment for the University of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said UMass President Robert L. Caret, PhD. “The work taking place in this impressive new building will extend the boundaries of medical and scientific knowledge and strengthen UMass Medical School’s standing as a world class center of research and education.”

Standing nine stories high and topped by an additional two-story mechanical systems penthouse, the Sherman Center was designed by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge and the construction was managed by Suffolk Construction Company. It will serve as the hub of the Worcester campus, physically connecting to existing buildings with broad landscaped exterior plazas and two elevated pedestrian bridges.

“The state-of-the-art Sherman Center is not only an important economic development engine for Massachusetts, but it will also set a new standard for medical research and education aimed at curing diseases,” said UMass Building Authority Executive Director Katherine Craven. “The UMass Building Authority is proud of the efficiency, teamwork, cost controls and quality management exemplified by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge, Suffolk Construction and PMA Consultants, in the success of the largest public facility construction in Massachusetts.”

“The Albert Sherman Center was one of the MLSC’s earliest investments, and at $90 million remains our largest investment to date,” said Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President & CEO Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD. “The advanced therapeutic research that will be housed in this facility will generate promising new treatments as well as spin out new companies. UMMS, the state’s first and only public medical school, is a science pioneer and the Center is very pleased to advance their work through this investment.”

“ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge is honored to have taken part in a truly collaborative design and construction process,” said ARC Associate Principal Mark Dolny, AIA. “From the beginning, the Chancellor inspired our team by reminding us that the faster we could design and build this new facility, the more quickly UMass Medical School’s researchers could discover cures and save lives. That became our major focus, and we never lost sight of our mission. Our team was able to program, plan, design and construct the Sherman Center in less than four years, achieve LEED Gold certification, and do it on time and under budget. We’re all immensely proud of this project.”

Designed to foster collaboration between disciplines and bring students, faculty and researchers together in a single space, the building’s main entrance opens from the quad into a dramatic two-story lobby. The first three floors contain areas for advanced medical and nursing education and aesthetically pleasing public spaces spread around a central atrium. Suites for the School of Medicine’s five Learning Communities, which are at the core of the new Learner-centered Integrated Curriculum, and similar learning space for the Graduate School of Nursing are located on these floors. Also on the second and third floors are new areas for students to receive hands-on learning at the interprofessional Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation, working with advanced clinical mannequins and actors trained to present like patients with specific conditions.

“We are honored and privileged to be part of this ground breaking, collaborative construction effort,” said Peter Campot, Suffolk’s president of Healthcare and Science-Technology and chief innovation officer. “This unique project gave us an opportunity to implement the most innovative planning and construction methods in the industry, including virtual design and construction and six-dimensional facility modeling. These state-of-the-art processes and tools, along with our ‘build smart’ approach to construction management, allowed us to deliver a facility that will set a new standard for biomedical research for generations to come.”

Setting the stage for diverse academic, social and community events, the Sherman Center’s public spaces include a full-service café and dining area, a 350-seat lecture hall and a flexible function suite that overlooks the rest of the campus. The building has numerous conference rooms and seminar spaces of varying sizes. There is also a fitness center for students, faculty and staff.

“The opportunity to create this building came at precisely the same time we were redesigning our medical education curriculum and expanding our translational research work,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medicine, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine. “More than 400 members of the campus community had input into the evolution of those programs, and now the Albert Sherman Center is the physical manifestation of our collective vision for the future.”

TRANSLATING BIOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES INTO NEW TREATMENTS

The majority of space in the Albert Sherman Center is devoted to biomedical research. Floors four through nine are filled with laboratories, core facilities, offices and conference spaces. When fully occupied, the Sherman Center will have some 90 principal investigators, leading laboratory programs with more than 700 scientists, graduate students and support staff.

The space is designed to have basic scientists exploring the fundamentals of biology at the cellular and molecular level located next to clinical researchers working on the processes of human disease and therapeutic development. Among these are many physician-scientists who, in addition to research, treat patients in more than 10 medical divisions—from pediatrics to surgery—at UMass Memorial Medical Center. These basic and clinical teams will work side-by-side with researchers who use large data sets and high-performance computing to ask and answer biological or population health questions. Working together, they will take new biological discoveries from the lab and translate them into treatments and cures for human diseases.

Much of the research in the new building will be done through the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster, which includes the RNA Therapeutics Institute, the Gene Therapy Center and the Program in Systems Biology. The Neurotherapeutics Institute, made up of a diverse group of faculty investigating central questions of neurodegenerative disease mechanisms and treatment, will also move to the new building, closely aligned with the programs in the advanced cluster. Advanced therapeutics are new classes of drugs that use genes and biologic molecules to modulate cellular processes and treat disease.

The Sherman Center will also be home to research in the Diabetes and Heart & Vascular Centers of Excellence; the Program in Bioinformatics & Integrative Biology; and the departments of Pathology, Quantitative Health Sciences, and Microbiology & Physiological Systems. Collectively, the researchers in the Sherman Center will focus on translating basic biological discoveries into new therapies for a range of human maladies; and in discovering the best approaches to improving the health of patients and populations.

For example, several scientists in the new building cluster around neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and various forms of dementia. Across long, open laboratory bays will be teams characterizing the genetic foundation of these diseases; others will use DNA and RNA constructs to control the processes of these diseases; still others will study protein interactions at the molecular level of the disease. These teams will work alongside biochemists designing delivery vehicles for advanced therapies and physician-scientists who treat patients with the diseases while exploring potential cures.

Construction of the Sherman Center took 32 months to complete and the skill of more than 1,729 workers and 125 architects and engineers. According to a 2008 analysis done by the Donahue Institute, construction of the Sherman Center created $750 million worth of economic activity for the state. When fully occupied, the Sherman Center is expected to generate more than $250 million of direct and indirect spending annually in support of 1,600 jobs.

The Sherman Center was designed to meet the rigorous standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for efficiency and sustainability. Among these elements are: a core of recycled steel, wood finishes harvested from sustainable forests, carpets and other textiles woven with recycled fibers. Rainwater from the roof and condensate water from the heating and cooling systems are captured and reused by the campus power plant, conserving 750,000 gallons of water each year.

The building also maximizes the use of natural light while deflecting solar heat to ease the cooling burden. A well-insulated building envelope, advanced heating and cooling systems and occupancy and daylight-harvesting sensors that adjust lighting and temperature in offices, labs, conference rooms and halls help make the Sherman Center 25 percent more energy efficient than a similar building of standard design. “The planners, architects, engineers and builders have done impressive work,” Chancellor Collins said. “Now it’s time for this school’s community to do what it does best—advance biomedical research, education and clinical care for the benefit of all.”