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UPMC Building New Personalized Rx Research Facility Focused on Cancer, Viruses, Aging

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Originally published Oct. 31.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center announced last week that it will invest around $300 million to build a new research facility focused on personalized treatments for cancer, viral diseases, and age-related conditions.

The new center, called the Center for Innovative Science, will be housed in a 350,000-square-foot facility that previously belonged to the Ford Motor Company. UPMC estimates that the center, slated for completion in 2014, could provide 375 new scientific and administrative jobs.

The center will conduct research on the biology of cancer and aging. The university is hoping that these studies will lead to downstream adoption of personalized medicine strategies that improve patient outcomes, reduce over-diagnosis, and avoid unnecessary treatments.

UPMC is currently recruiting to fill positions at the new center that require genetics and genomics expertise in cancer, viruses, and knowledge of the normal and abnormal cell changes associated with aging.

“With recent advances that have been made in such fields as genetics, genomics and computational biology, the time is right to challenge the conventional paradigms that have guided most medical research to this point,” Steven Shapiro, UPMC chief medical and scientific officer said in a statement. “UPMC is uniquely positioned to become a national model for research innovation, thanks to our large population of patients and the significant investments we have already made in gathering and analyzing huge volumes of complex data.”

In September, Elodie Ghedin, assistant professor in the department of computational and systems biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an associate investigator at the J. Craig Venter Institute, was awarded $500,000 in funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ghedin's research focuses on genome sequencing to study human pathogens such as the parasites that cause leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, elephantiasis, and river blindness.