HHMI contributes $17.6M to new building

Howard Hughes Medical Institute contributes $17.6 million to $131.5 million interdisciplinary research building

January 6, 2000

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has contributed $17.6 million to the University of Chicago to help fund the construction of a new laboratory complex, informally known as the Interdisciplinary Research Building. The 375,000 gross-square-foot-building, projected to cost $131.5 million dollars, will house a unique combination of programs from the biological and physical sciences.

The Interdivisional Research Building (IRB) is designed to enhance collaboration and ease the sharing of ideas among researchers in the biological and physical sciences, as well as the Howard Hughes Investigators, by bringing scientists from different fields within close proximity of each other.

In the new building, to be completed in 2003, Howard Hughes investigators at the University of Chicago will join biological scientists from the University's department of biochemistry and molecular biology and the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research; a mixture of physical and biological science faculty from the University's new Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, as well as the entire department of chemistry and physicists from the James Franck Institute.

"We are extremely pleased that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute shares our vision that incredible science will result from juxtaposing these scientists in a single place," said Glenn D. Steele, Jr., MD, PhD, dean of the Biological Sciences Division at the University and vice president for medical affairs. "We expect that this combination will lead to the development of high-impact projects that transcend the boundaries separating the traditional disciplines of the biological and physical sciences."

"The interface between biology, chemistry, and physics continues to be one of the most exciting areas of science," says Elaine Fuchs, PhD, Amgen professor of molecular genetics and cell biology, and biochemistry and molecular biology, and Howard Hughes Investigator. "The new opportunities for interdivisional interaction have the potential to make the University of Chicago a national focus for this explosion of exciting new research."

The relocation of the University's Howard Hughes Medical Institute from the Peck Pavilion to the IRB will, for example, support a new project in which Susan Lindquist, PhD, Albert D. Lasker professor of molecular genetics and cell biology and Howard Hughes Investigator, and researchers from the departments of chemistry and physics will use the inherent complexity and diversity found in biological systems to develop new functional materials.

The excitement of moving to the IRB is echoed by the University's seven Howard Hughes investigators. "The mixture of biological and physical sciences in the new building is certain to lead to advances which we can't even predict right now," says Nipam Patel, assistant professor of organismal biology and anatomy and Howard Hughes Investigator. "Even though my own lab focuses on developmental and evolutionary questions, biochemical and molecular techniques are the driving technology behind much of the work, and greater proximity to those at the forefront of these technologies is bound to accelerate our own progress."

The move will provide a new home to the University of Chicago's Howard Hughes Institute's administrative, as well as scientific functions. The 33,700 net square feet to be dedicated to the Hughes Investigators--about 10 percent of the new structure--will provide space not only for Drs. Fuchs, Patel and Lindquist, but also the laboratories and offices of their Hughes colleagues, Donald Steiner, Graeme Bell, Harinder Singh and Joseph Piccirilli.

Its effect will transcend the physical limits of the building, according to Steele. As the cornerstone of the science quad, the building will be a focal point for physical scientists as well as for biological researchers in the nearby Biological Sciences Learning Center, the Kovler Laboratories for Viral Oncology the new Biopsychology Science Building and the Cummings Life Sciences Building.

"New ideas often come from unexpected sources," says Donald Steiner, Pritzker professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Hughes Investigator, and an authority on precursor proteins--rough cuts of proteins such as insulin that need to be modified before they are able to function normally. "Biophysicists, chemists, and structural biologists working together in this structure are sure to contribute seminal ideas that will push back the frontiers of science." Groundbreaking for the Interdivisional Research Building is planned for the summer of 2000. The building will be approximately 375,000 gross square feet and will be located on East 57th Street, west of Ellis Avenue, on a site currently occupied by the Whitman and Visual Sciences Laboratories and Phemister Hall.

The HHMI funds will pay construction costs for space devoted to the University's Hughes Investigators and their offices of administrative services. Hughes representatives are working with University faculty, administrators and the architects from Ellenzweig Associates, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to design the laboratory space.

The HHMI provides more than 20 percent of all the private, nonprofit support for medical research in the nation. HHMI scientists include many of the world's leaders in cell biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, and structural biology. These investigators carry out research at universities and academic medical centers across the United States, including the University of Chicago.

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