New wing of Center for Biomedical Research 'a landmark' in UTHCT's history

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

TYLER – A new addition to the Center for Biomedical Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler will advance medical science and boost the East Texas economy, area officials said Wednesday during the dedication of the new wing.

“This is a landmark in our history. These 17 new labs help us recruit new faculty. And our faculty members are very productive, bringing in about $12 million in research money this year,” said Dr. Steven Idell, vice president for research at UTHSCT.

UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said, “Our researchers are investigating how to slow the growth of cancer and lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis. If we can control these kinds of inflammatory processes, we can better manage these diseases.”

UTHSCT scientists also are looking into how and why we age, how infectious diseases spread, and how to detect and prevent bioterrorism, he said.

Dr. Idell said, “Our researchers are funded by more than 70 grants from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, an increase of more than 40 percent over last year. This year, we received double the amount of research dollars we received in 2000.”

The new wing added 30,000 square feet to the existing 73,265 square-foot building. Tuition revenue bonds funded the expansion. Ninety percent of the addition is lab space, including a Biosafety Level 3 lab suite and support areas. BSL-3 labs have special safety features, including an air-handling system, that enable laboratory staff to safely analyze bacteria and other microbes that cause infectious diseases.

Dr. Calhoun said, “Our scientists bring research income to East Texas. We’re proud to say that we are the biotechnology leader in this region. We intend to build on that reputation. Our goal is to become a national leader in biomedical research.”

Tom Mullins, president of the Tyler Economic Development Council and chairman and chief executive officer of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce, said a master plan for a 120-acre biotechnology park next to the UTHSCT campus is almost completed. The next step is to construct roads and other infrastructure in the park.

“Biotechnology is one of the top five priorities of Gov. Perry. This is important to more than just Tyler and Smith County,” he said, noting that Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt was in the crowd.

“The reason Bill is here is because he understands the regional importance of this research,” Mullins said.

Dr. Calhoun also thanked Stoudt for attending the dedication. “The collaboration between Gregg County and Smith County and the Health Center is very much alive and well,” he said. Stoudt was one of numerous East Texas officials and community leaders at the dedication.

Dr. Mark Atkinson, UTHSCT’s director of research, said the new lab space already has enabled the Health Center to hire four new researchers, two from Harvard University, one from Yale University, and one from the University of Chicago.

A reception was held after the dedication, along with tours of the new facility.

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.