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UPDATE: UC Board of Regents OKs $269M Clinical and Translational Building for UCSD

This article has been updated with comments from a UCSD official.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of California, San Diego, will break ground in 2012 on a new $269 million building for its Clinical and Translational Institute following approval of the budget for capital improvements and external financing by the UC Board of Regents this week.

The CTSI facility would consist of 311,000 gross square feet of space, of which 189,000 would be usable for institute programs, and be built within a 3.84-acre site on an undeveloped portion of the East Campus Health Sciences Neighborhood North Canyon area.

According to UCSD, the building will allow the institute to consolidate several locations on campus, and additional space off campus, into a single home that will better facilitate multi-disciplinary research, better support current research programs, and open the door for new research efforts.

CTSI focuses on new imaging techniques and biomarker analysis, with the goal of improving the efficiency of testing new therapies. It aims to build a clinical research infrastructure that includes research tools and cores such as statistics and informatics and will forge partnerships with community doctors and the public to translate discoveries into treatments.

Details of the research program have yet to be decided.

"We’re really in the preliminary stages of that right now. My guess is, in the next year or so we'll be working to develop which programs are going to actually go in," Gary Firestein, director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute and dean of translational medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

"It will be a competitive process, where people will propose programs, and they will be selected based on their scientific merit, and their commitment to translational research," said Firestein, who is also CTRI's principal investigator/program director.

He said CTRI accounts for about 300 of UCSD's 1,200 health sciences faculty members, a figure that includes researchers holding faculty posts at nearby research institutions, such as The Salk Institute and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The larger health sciences number includes faculty for the UCSD School of Medicine, UCSD Medical Center, and UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

"The goal of the institute is not to be an exclusive club but to be an inclusive organization. We're really trying to encourage people to join and interact, and hopefully the building will provide another impetus for that," Firestein said.

Completion is projected for July 2015. Almost all of the project cost, around $249 million, would be funded through "external" sources — namely general revenue bonds secured by UC revenues, a spokeswoman for UCSD, Debra Kain, told GWDN.

UCSD would contribute at least $10 million in gifts — but is looking to reduce through fundraising the amount of debt or School of Medicine funds that would be needed, according to a detailed report on the project furnished to the Board of Regents before their Nov. 16-18 meeting, at which the project was approved.

Another $7 million would come from the recovery of pre-occupancy indirect costs — or "Garamendi" financing that allows increased federal indirect cost recovery generated as a result of the new building to pay debt service and maintenance costs — while $3 million would come from campus funds.

In the report, UCSD said the CTSI’s combined amount of space on and off campus "is not sufficient to support current research activities, let alone allow for significant expansion. A limiting factor in continuing to expand contract and grant activity and revenue, in general and specifically related to CTRI, is the adequacy of research space and the availability of specialized core research, particularly that which supports translational dry research," the university concluded.

Features and amenities of the new building will include dry labs of 78,280 square feet for a total of 86 principal investigators. The space would be used for clinical trials, epidemiology, outcomes research and other patient-focused studies, and for biomedical informatics and statistics services.

It also will include wet research laboratories of 39,780 square feet, for a total of 24 principal investigators. That space would be used for disease pathogenesis studies, validation of new therapeutic targets, and development of treatments for testing in humans.

The building will include laboratory cores of 22,850 square feet, with space for human tissue repositories, microscopic tissue and cellular imaging, as well as analytical core laboratories, and a small animal vivarium. It also will house clinical trials research and clinical cores of 12,050 square feet.

Last summer, UCSD won a $37.2 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from NIH, making it one of 55 institutions nationwide within the CTSA consortium. The consortium strives to transform lab discoveries into new treatments, actively engage communities in clinical research, and train younger clinical and translational researchers.

Participating institutions and community partners in the CTRI include San Diego State University; The Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; J. Craig Venter Institute; La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology; University of California, San Diego Medical Center; Palomar Pomerado Hospital; Rady Children's Hospital Research Center; and the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Firestein said planning for the new building began well before the CTSA grant was funded, adding that the commitment for the building was included in UCSD's successful CTSA proposal.

"While the grant clearly accelerates the pace of activity, the remarkable growth of research and clinical activity at UC San Diego required a structure like the CTRI building," Firestein said.

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