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June 17, 2024

A catalyst for change: Henry Ford Health, MSU celebrate groundbreaking of research center in Detroit

Researchers, community members, students, officials and more mark a pivotal moment as work begins on the 335,000-square-foot research facility. 

The Gilbert Family Foundation also celebrates the groundbreaking of the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute

It was a morning punctuated by celebration, collaboration and a visit from Michigan State University mascot, Sparty, as hundreds gathered to recognize the start of construction on the Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences Research Center in the New Center neighborhood. 

Work on the $335 million research facility — a hallmark of the 30-year partnership between the two Michigan institutions — officially began in late May. The health sciences research center is the first physical embodiment of the Henry Ford + MSU partnership and will further enable groundbreaking discoveries and translational research for which the partnership is becoming known. A key focus in this research is closing the gap in health care outcomes for people based on race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status. In addition, it is MSU’s largest research facility, designed to house more than 80 principal investigator teams. 

“When Michigan State and Henry Ford first embarked on this partnership, we knew and believed in what was possible,” said Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Ph.D., president of MSU. “Now, our health sciences research is unified under the partnership, we have the top-funded women’s health research program in the nation, and our researchers have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make discoveries that will definitively improve the lives and health of countless individuals.” 

The research center is a foundational component of the Future of Health: Detroit, a $3 billion development between Henry Ford, MSU, and Tom Gores and the Detroit Pistons meant to reimagine and redefine health and well-being for our Detroit community and beyond. The development will be anchored by a major Henry Ford Hospital expansion and features mixed-income housing and retail development by the Detroit Pistons.

“I am so energized not only by the life-changing research that’s already happening within the partnership, but also by the prospect of what more we can accomplish together inside the walls of the cutting-edge research center we are building in Detroit,” said Bob Riney, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health. “We have a unique opportunity in front of us to meaningfully impact the health of the diverse population we serve through our collective research, while also serving as a national model for the power and potential of university and health care collaboration.”

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Located on Third Street just across from the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center, the new research center will:

  • Include 335,000 square feet and seven stories of state-of-the-art laboratory space;
  • Expand research in key areas including cancer, neuroscience, immunology, hypertension and more; and
  • Provide advanced technology to help recruit top researchers from across the country, offering cutting-edge opportunities for more than 500 team members.

The research center will also house the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute (NGNRI), the first-of-its-kind brick-and-mortar institution devoted to researching neurofibromatosis (NF) a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways throughout the body. NGNRI is named after the late son of Detroit-area philanthropists Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, who, together through the Gilbert Family Foundation and sister nonprofit NF Forward, have invested more than $125 million into research to cure NF. Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is the most common form of the disease and affects one in every 2,500 births around the world.

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, Co-Founders of Gilbert Family Foundation, joined other dignitaries at the event to offer their support.

“Nick fought this terrible disease his entire life,” said Dan Gilbert. “His optimistic spirit and resilience never wavered as he became an example of the kind of fight we expect the research institute named after him to display as it battles to find a cure for NF, from right here in downtown Detroit. We are enormously proud, and we know Nick would be too, to stand alongside so many passionate partners who share in our commitment to eradicate this disease.”

“Michigan has long been a hub for exciting life sciences and medical innovation,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. “This collaboration between Henry Ford Health and MSU is a transformative step forward that will build on our innovative heritage and make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and families across our great state. Gov. Whitmer and I are grateful for the partnership that got this done, and we will continue working with anyone to build the future and help more people make it in Michigan.”

Local leaders praised the partners’ efforts to fight health disparities, improve access to health care and bring jobs to the community. 

“Detroiters deserve the very best medical treatment and that starts with world-class research,” said City of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “When it opens in 2027, this beautiful new facility will play an important role in closing the gap in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity and income. We all are deeply appreciative to Henry Ford Health and MSU for their leadership and to Dan and Jennifer Gilbert for their remarkable generosity in funding the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute that will be housed here.”

“Having served the residents of District 5 for over a decade, I fully understand the need to advance health initiatives that improve health care in the city of Detroit,” said Detroit City Council President and District 5 representative Mary Sheffield. “Simply put, Detroiters deserve the very best health care, and this partnership serves as a vehicle to deliver world-class health care in the heart of District 5 and our city.”

Read more about Henry Ford + MSU research.


By: Dalin Clark


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