Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science will invest $50 million in a new Innovation and Research Park on its North Chicago campus, the university announced. The park will offer state-of-the-art research labs and incubator space for faculty and commercial biotech start-ups. The expansion will also include space for national and international life science firms.
Construction is set to begin in September on a four-story, 100,000 square-foot building, with long-term plans calling for two additional buildings.
Its developers say the park will promote collaboration among faculty and industry scientists and biotech entrepreneurs, with the goal of accelerating translation of RFU’s research into commercial therapeutics.
“The Innovation and Research Park is a commitment to a healthier future,” said RFU President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch, a neurologist and former National Institutes of Health funded investigator in stroke and headache. “Biomedical research and development can improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The research park will promote very intentional interdisciplinary collaboration that might yield new answers to help people live longer, healthier lives.”
RFU is working with not-for-profit TUFF, The University Financing Foundation, in the financing and development of the project. TUFF has built and managed successful science parks at Georgia Tech, University of Delaware, Louisiana State University and Florida Institute of Technology.
“We’re helping RFU expand its impressive research capabilities in a region noted for significant pharmaceutical and medical device company activity,” said TUFF President Kevin Byrne. “Creating a space that enhances interactions and partnerships between the university and these innovative industries will help speed the translation of discovery into better health and life-saving treatments.”
Initially the park will house up to 175 researchers focused principally on neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and muscular dystrophy. Investigations will also focus on genetic diseases, inflammation, and proteomics. Labs will co-located based on disease focus to create new synergies, enhance competitiveness for federal grant funding and venture capital, and draw interest from potential philanthropic partners.
The university is also partnering with North Chicago-based SmartHealth Activator to facilitate biotech start-ups founded by RFU faculty. Already one company, NeuroLucent, was launched by neuroscientist Beth Stutzmann, based on her study of target compounds that show promise in preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.
According to RFU Executive Vice President of Research Ronald Kaplan, commercialization efforts have been limited in the northern Illinois region by the lack of a biotech start-up ecosystem. “The science park is an investment in our research enterprise,” said Kaplan. “As we accelerate the development of our research and related intellectual property, we’re also creating the innovation epicenter for Chicagoland’s bioscience cluster.”
Source: Rosalind Franklin University