University of Maryland School of Medicine to tackle diseases in major new Baltimore research center

The University of Maryland School of Medicine plans to cut the ribbon on the university system’s largest academic building ever Wednesday, a $305 million tower on Baltimore Street that officials say will vastly expand the institution’s ability to understand and treat diseases.

The 430,000-square-foot, 11-story structure is expected to house 400 people and generate an estimated $107.4 million in annual research funding. The figure is based on teams of researchers already recruited to the school along with their laboratories, as well as projected recruitment from around the country.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the school of medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs, said officials decided a new facility was needed because the volume of research was outpacing available space.

“It was something we wanted to do to ensure that the pace and scope of research was not impeded by space,” Reece said. “As a bonus, this building will house funded research, people bringing federal dollars to the city of Baltimore. That will have a significant economic impact on our city.”

Reece said the school already has recruited 15 existing teams of researchers and plans to bring in a few more. Their work will complement research already underway at Maryland and target diseases that cause the most death and disability, such as cancer, heart disease, and nervous system and brain disorders.

“We decided to take them on in an aggressive way,” he said.

The building will house both wet and dry research labs — wet labs, with sinks and hoods, are more traditional for research involving fluids, chemicals, drugs or other compounds, while dry labs are for computer-based modeling or applied mathematics research. The building also will offer faculty offices, conference rooms, collaborative work spaces, a seminar room, a high-end imaging suite and a green roof garden.

Reece said the state-of-the-art facilities were a major aid in luring top researchers.

The building expands the school of medicine’s footprint by 18 percent to 2.3 million square feet, and was the result of a multi-year capital fundraising campaign.

Some faculty and staff already have started moving into the building on the west side of downtown. The research teams represent new labs, except for the Institute for Genome Sciences, which will move from Maryland’s nearby biopark.

The university estimates that the new facility will support 1,128 jobs in the state and create an estimated $8 million in state and local government revenue.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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