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Sept. 5, 2013

MSU, Grand Rapids community team up on proposed biomedical research facility

More than 30 faculty and students from MSU are taking the first steps toward realizing a new biomedical research facility in Grand Rapids, continuing MSU’s commitment to work with its partners in solving global health problems.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon this week officially launched the first phase of the project in Grand Rapids, where faculty and students from MSU’s Land Policy Institute and School of Planning, Design and Construction will be conducting research during the next several weeks.

Earlier this summer, the Board of Trustees authorized the administration to move forward with planning for development of the 7.85 acres of land in Grand Rapids the university bought for $12 million in January 2012. The need for a biomedical facility in Grand Rapids is crucial to support the projected growth of MSU and the College of Human Medicine.

“We were pleased to acquire the downtown properties last year to accommodate the demands of our growing medical research program,” Simon said. “We are excited as we take this next step with students, researchers and faculty engaging with local leaders and community partners to develop a model biosciences corridor in Grand Rapids.”

Scott Witter, who leads MSU’s Land Policy Institute and its School of Planning, Design and Construction, said the multi-disciplinary research team has a complex task ahead of it as they begin their work this week by visiting the Secchia Center, the College of Human Medicine’s headquarters.

The team is charged with creating a vision for MSU and Grand Rapids as a center for biomedical research, clinical study and education in an attractive, sustainable and economically diverse community.

“Our team’s role is to look at the community and MSU properties and figure out how we can design a high-class, model facility that satisfies researchers, administrators and community partners,” Witter said. “That includes looking at everything from sustainability to planning and zoning to technology.”

The on-the-ground learning that the students – both undergraduate and graduate – will experience is invaluable, Witter said. In addition to facility planning, they will interview local leaders as well as look at social and cultural factors that will help recruit and retain world-class researchers.

By the end of the year, a report will be delivered to the MSU Board of Trustees. Forthcoming phases of the project will include the development of funding sources and philanthropy plan.

Since opening in 2010, the MSU College of Human Medicine Secchia Center has operated as a medical education building, without space designated for research laboratories. The college has partnered with the Van Andel Institute and Grand Valley State University to lease space for MSU investigators in their facilities.

The college has succeeded in recruiting 15 principal investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health to West Michigan and now fully occupies all desirable laboratory space available to MSU in Grand Rapids. The expanding research profile in Grand Rapids includes centers of excellence focusing on Parkinson’s disease, cutaneous oncology and women’s reproductive health, including breast cancer.

The property purchased in 2012 includes a 173,800 square-foot building across from the Secchia Center that formerly housed The Grand Rapids Press and five nearby parcels that are currently parking lots.