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Wistar Breaks Ground on $100M Facility, Launches Capital Campaign

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Wistar Institute broke ground today on a new $100 million research facility that will sit alongside its original lab, now nearly 120 years old, in Philadelphia's University City.

The seven-story, 90,000-square-foot tower will provide five floors specifically for housing new labs, new researchers, new equipment, and collaborative efforts that will continue to pursue Wistar's research into cancer, vaccine development, and studies of other diseases.

The institute expects to bring in 10 more primary investigators, as well as research teams of staff scientists and post-docs that support them, to work in the new building, and has already added a new bioinformatics professor, Wistar Associate Director of Communications Greg Lester told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

"At a time when biomedical research is advancing at a lightning pace, The Wistar Institute finds itself constrained by aging facilities designed for 19th and 20th century science," Wistar President and CEO Russel E. Kaufman said in a statement today. "We designed our new building specifically to foster interactions between researchers in the kinds of multidisciplinary collaborations that spark innovation and drive results."

The expansion project, which Wistar expects to complete in 2014, received funding of $18 million from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The institute also received $70 million in debt financing from Citizen's Bank.

Wistar also said today that it has embarked on a $35 million capital campaign. It has already received $18.6 million in commitments during a "quiet phase," wherein it sought support from previous Wistar donors.

"The most challenging part is yet to come," said Wistar Trustee Richard Fox, who is chair of the capital campaign. "By entering the public phase of this fundraising effort we are asking for support from the community at large, from everyone who appreciates the impact that Wistar science has had on the world and recognizes its future potential in the new building."

Lester told GWDN that Wistar does not expect to petition Pennsylvania for more funding to complete the project, and plans to finish the fundraising on its own.

The new building will sit between Wistar's original campus, constructed in 1892 and still in use, and its cancer research building (Wistar was designated a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center in 1972).

Lester said that the expansion will provide a better public interface for the institute by adding a new grand entrance, a 200-seat auditorium for events, lectures, and readings, and more public space for hosting events and visitors.

"The thinking around here is that you publish more with people you are closer to, so we want to get more folks nearer to each other and make real our promises for collaborative research," he said.

Wistar's researchers today engage in studies of genes, gene expression, cancer biology, immunology and virology, and translational research. Specific studies may involve functional genomics, proteomics, epigenetics, computational genomics, bioinformatics, and a range of other molecular research approaches.

Lester said that researchers in the new facility are likely to pursue translational research efforts.

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