Research will Focus on Cancer Drug Therapies, Molecular Medicine, Pediatric Vaccines and Building Platforms for DNA and Biomarker Testing
After nearly two years of construction, the sparkling copper Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building — whose grand opening Feb. 23 is part of an anniversary celebration for the UA Health Sciences — will bring scientists and researchers together to discover innovative solutions to today’s most pressing health issues.
The 10-story, 245,000-square-foot building is the latest addition to the growing downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Part of the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, it is adjacent to the college’s award-winning Health Sciences Education Building and connected through a walkway labeled the "Grand Canyon."
The first tenants in the $136 million structure will be:
- The Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine, where researchers create platforms for molecular analysis in diagnosing and treating diseases. Among its completed projects are developing the first platform technology for rapid DNA testing, providing optical biometrics technology for security systems and developing a simulated gut-on-a-chip for performing research linking the human microbiome to health, nutrition and medication. Its director is Frederic Zenhausern, PhD, MBA.
- The Research and Translational Flow Cytometry and Immunology Core Laboratory offers core translational research services to investigators. Scientists analyze the physical and chemical characteristics of particles such as blood cells as they pass through a laser. Its work includes immunophenotyping, which studies the protein expressed by cells. The lab can analyze thousands of particles per second. Flow cytometry is routinely used in the diagnosis of health disorders, especially blood cancers, but has many other applications in basic science research. Its director is Mrinalini Kala, PhD.
- The research lab of Dr. William Cance, deputy director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. A renowned oncology surgeon and physician-scientist, Dr. Cance will develop disease-focused clinical groups on the Phoenix campus in conjunction with the University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Dr. Cance’s research is focused on a critically important protein for cancer survival and progression. In 1993, Dr. Cance was the first researcher to clone the human focal adhesion kinase protein (FAK) and demonstrate its overexpression in invasive and metastic cancers. Subsequently, his research has focused on defining the role of FAK in cancer and developing therapeutics that target the protein.
- The Institute of Molecular Medicine, which is in the college’s Department of Child Health, is a partnership with Phoenix Children’s Hospital to focus on understanding the mechanisms underlying diseases in children, such as pediatric cancer, and the timely application of molecular and functional information to improve the lives of patients. By using a patient's specific genetic information, researchers try to identify what makes them susceptible to disease and/or respond to a particular drug treatment. They use this information to match them with their own personalized therapy. The lab’s co-directors are David Azorsa, PhD, and Eiman Aleem, PhD, MSc.
- The Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Laboratory, another UA College of Medicine – Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital partnership in the college’s Department of Child Health, is a recent addition to the research repertoire. The laboratory focuses on a molecular genetics approach to development of bacterial vaccines using a methodology called reverse vaccinology. The sequence of the bacterial genome serves as the starting point for analysis of candidate vaccines. Investigators in the laboratory include Terrence Stull, MD, Paul Whitby, PhD, and Daniel Morton, PhD.
The fifth and sixth floors of the new building are among the first to be completed and will house the five research labs. Floors seven and eight have been shelled for more labs, and the ninth floor is finished with office space. In the next phase, offices for college department chairs and division chiefs will be built on the 10th floor, as well as hotel spaces for physicians who work at the college and at Banner Health. Construction is expected to continue for another year.
“This new, beautiful building offers us a wonderful opportunity to engage with all our partners and is a fantastic recruitment tool to attract researchers,” said UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Interim Dean Kenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD.
“Completion of this Biomedical Sciences building will allow the University of Arizona to pursue expanded partnerships with industry that we hope will lead to groundbreaking discoveries in the areas of neuroscience, cardiovascular and thoracic science,” said University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart, PhD. “This building will foster collaborations with scientists that will lead to more cures, better treatments and bring more federal and private dollars to Arizona.”
The UA has invested nearly $450 million in building projects on the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus and has built close to one million square feet of capital projects. In addition to the College of Medicine, the campus offers classes in the UA Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Eller College of Management.
The building is the latest development in the steady expansion of the downtown campus and expanding academic medical center. In 2012, the Health Sciences Education Building opened, housing health education for UA and Northern Arizona University. The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s, a 220,000-square-foot outpatient and research facility, opened in 2015.
Funding for the $136 million building was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in 2014 using a Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development bonds that were approved by the Arizona Legislature in 2008.
DPR Construction • Sundt Construction, Inc., a joint venture, managed construction of the new building. Architects for the project are CO Architects of Los Angeles and Ayres Saint Gross of Phoenix.
The medical school in Phoenix has graduated 273 physicians and has 332 students in training in its continuing mission to address the physician shortage in Arizona.