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New California Collaborative Research Facility Breaks Ground

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - A consortium of three research institutes and a university, all based in the San Diego region, has quietly broken ground on a $126 million research facility intended to advance collaborations — a project delayed more than a year by California's budget squeeze.

The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine says the new "collaboratory" will pursue joint projects by its members and collaboration partners to invent tools and technologies intended to advance research into stem cells, and to discover and develop diagnostics and therapies.

The consortium's basic research focuses on stem cell growth and differentiation, neuroscience, cardiovascular biology, blood cell development, and vision science. Members of the consortium, formed in 2006 to build and operate the facility, are the University of California, San Diego, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and The Scripps Research Institute.

Construction of the collaboratory officially began last week, Debra Kain, a spokeswoman for UCSD, told GenomeWeb Daily News on Tuesday.

"The most important aspect of this consortium is for top researchers to work side-by-side in a common facility to create the breakthroughs needed to treat ALS, Alzheimer's disease, cardiac tissue damaged during heart attacks, cancer, and other medical problems," Kain said Tuesday.

Almost half the collaboratory's cost — $62 million — will be paid for through tax-exempt bonds to be backed by credit support from the University of California, which owns the project's 7.5 acre site in La Jolla, Calif., on North Torrey Pines Road. California's budget problems over the past year delayed the UC guarantee for the project, explaining why it was originally to be completed in the coming year, but will instead open in 2011.

Another $43 million was approved last year by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state's stem-cell research agency, while $21 million will come from the $30 million gift announced last year by Sioux Falls, SD, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

Sanford's remaining $9 million will go toward preconstruction costs plus operation of the 145,087-square-foot facility. In return for accepting the $30 million gift, the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine agreed to rename itself.

The collaboratory's laboratory and office space is designed to accommodate about 336 investigators, and includes core facilities to accommodate sophisticated imaging technologies, as well as conference facilities including a 4,000-square-foot auditorium.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony is set for early in the spring, Kain said.