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Hundreds attend Academic & Research Center
grand opening - a new era of biomedical research begins

 
 
By Richard Heck

May 14, 2010

 

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) celebrated the beginning of a new era in medical research Saturday, May 8, with the official grand opening of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations and Charles R. and Marilyn Y. Stuckey Academic and Research Center (ARC).

More than 300 donors, friends of the college, community members and OU-HCOM faculty, students and staff gathered on that cool, breezy morning for the gala event, which included remarks from Richard Vincent on behalf of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations (OHF) and from Charles R. and Marilyn Y. Stuckey. The OHF and the Stuckeys are the two major benefactors of the project.

Donors cut ribbons with commemorative gold engraved scissors at more than 30 named spaces, guests toured the building, medical students presented research poster presentations and engineering students conducted class project demonstrations.

During his remarks, Vincent, who is president and CEO of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, emphasized the organization’s proud support of the project and the tremendous potential for growth in research programs that this new facility brings to OU-HCOM and the university as a whole.

“Through our collective efforts, we should be able to make this Ohio’s university: an essential asset to the local communities and the state, a destination-of-choice for higher education and an enterprise of distinction for research,” said Vincent. “It doesn’t need to be the largest or the most centrally located. It simply needs the collective commitment of the faculty, staff, administration and board … regardless of any limitations and challenges we may face.”

The ARC project was born from the vision of Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis. At an OU-HCOM Advisory Board Meeting, Jack Brose, D.O., dean of OU-HCOM, argued for a new facility for college research. Mr. Vincent enthusiastically supported this idea, and expanded the vision of OU-HCOM’s future with significant emphasis on research in addition to medical education and community service. Knowing that the Russ College was also planning to develop a new but separate facility for engineering education, McDavis, also on the college’s advisory board, suggested combining the colleges’ efforts. Considering the growing momentum of collaborative research between the two colleges, the partnership made perfect sense.

“In an era in which medical science and engineering are working to create biomedical engineering and are creating biomedical discoveries every day, an academic facility that takes away boundaries between these two disciplines is the next logical step,” McDavis said.

According to Brose, the shared space will foster new cross-disciplinary research. “Research collaborations are impromptu,” he said. “They come from people standing in a hallway and talking, going together to a conference, or just bumping into each other. More ideas will likely come from meeting someone in the café than from formal meetings.”

The 89,000-square-foot building was designed to encourage such interactions. It features a spacious atrium with a café area and a variety of alcoves and other informal meeting spaces, in addition to classrooms and conference rooms.

The building’s specialized research corridors, with connected, “suite-style” laboratories were built to promote collaborative efforts between researchers. Eight researchers from OU-HCOM and two from the Russ College conduct their work in the ARC.

The 22 laboratory spaces are located on the second and third floors, with one floor devoted to diabetes research and one floor devoted to cancer research.

This facility is expected to boost the university’s growing research efforts in cancer, diabetes and related illnesses, according to Brose. Largely due to the  new drug, Somavert®, developed by OU-HCOM researcher John Kopchick, Ph.D., Ohio University ranks as the top public university in Ohio, and among the top in the nation, for research royalties. Forbes magazine recently ranked Ohio University fourth in the nation for research returns on investment.

“Because of the creativity and foresight of our faculty, and because of the overwhelming generosity of our donors, I can safety say this is only the beginning,” Brose said. “Within these walls, OU-HCOM and the Russ College researchers are working together on new technologies and medications that will dramatically change how doctors treat diabetes mellitus and currently incurable cancers.”

According to Kelly McCall, Ph.D., OU-HCOM assistant professor of endocrinology, the building is already making a difference. She now shares lab space with her main collaborator, Frank Schwartz, M.D., the J.O. Watson, D.O., Endowed Diabetes Research Chair.

“I have already developed two papers with Dr. Schwartz since we moved into this building. Doing something that efficiently wasn’t really possible before we moved in here,” McCall said.

McCall, Schwartz and other ARC collaborators are working on a project, funded by a sub-grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop a drug that treats pancreatic cancer, an aggressive cancer with few current treatment options. McCall anticipates conducting clinical trials within the next two years.

The size and number of new laboratory spaces is also intended to recruit new researchers—especially those with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)  and active research teams—to the university. OU-HCOM recently hired a new diabetes researcher who accepted the position largely because of the new laboratory space, Brose said.

The facility opened in January 2010. Project architects Burgess & Niple believe it is one of the first facilities in the United States to combine engineering education with integrated research related to medicine and biomedical engineering.

The $34.5 million project is one of only four buildings financed significantly through private donations. The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations gave $10 million toward its construction, and Ohio University Board of Trustees member and Russ College alumnus Charles Stuckey and his wife, Marilyn, donated $5 million.

In total, more than $22 million was raised for the ARC through the generosity of more than 120 alumni, foundations, corporations and other friends of OU-COM and the Russ College.

OU-COM donors named 28 spaces, including medical research labs, the café, a fireplace alcove, conference rooms, and other alcoves designed to encourage informal meetings among collaborators. Between OU-HCOM and the Russ College, donors named 35 total spaces.

In addition to the laboratory and classroom space, the building features 13 classrooms equipped with the latest instructional technology and moveable furniture to encourage group work, and more than a dozen project team rooms where students, faculty and staff can gather to brainstorm and advance projects.

 
 
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