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Campus News

Life Sciences Research Building Opens

By Greta Petry (November 5, 2004)

Chemists, psychologists, computer scientists, bilogists, and physicists will work together in the University at Albany's new Life Sciences Research Building, whcih opened October 13.

Chemists, psychologists, computer scientists, biologists, and physicists will work together in the University at Albany's new Life Sciences Research Building, whcih opened October 13.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when Interim President John R. Ryan opened the University at Albany’s new $78 million Life Sciences Research Building (LSRB) October 13.

“Our goal at the University at Albany has been the creation of a world-class Life Sciences research center that will build excellence in research and education, leading to new discoveries emerging at the intersection of traditional scientific disciplines,” Ryan said. “We began this challenging project as part of the University’s master plan, guided by the vision and leadership of Governor [George] Pataki and Chancellor [Robert] King.”

Ryan told the guests, assembled under a tent in front of the new building, the facility is the end result of the “commitment, hard work, and support” of the deans, faculty, administrators and staff, state officials, and many donors and partners in the private sector.

Ryan said the new building will serve as “the nucleus of life sciences research across the University, organized around the over-arching theme of molecular structure and function. This research focus includes a broad spectrum of research directions that explore the structure, function, and regulation of genes, biologically active molecules and materials – with the ultimate goal of understanding the cause and cure of disease.”

Research undertaken in the building will target a number of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, drug addiction, HIV, and cancer.

Eighteen UAlbany scientists are to be housed at the 194,000-square-foot building, and Department of Biological Sciences Chair Albert Millis said he is optimistic that 10 more professors will be hired in the next three years. At a presentation Millis gave in the newly named D’Ambra Auditorium in the LSRB the morning of the opening, he said, “The backbone of research is its faculty and fellows who are chosen for outstanding scientific instincts, independent thinking, and collaborative spirit.”

Ryan introduced State University of New York Chancellor King, who extended thanks to the governor, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

When fully funded, New York State will have provided $65 million for the cost of constructing the Life Sciences building. Another $5 million is expected from research grants. The University is raising $20 million in private support. Additional federal and University support brings the total investment to more than $100 million.

“I am absolutely delighted to be here,” said King, who added the building “is a reflection of a new way of thinking about science.” As the pace of discovery has escalated, the boundaries among disciplines have begun to disappear: chemists, psychologists, computer scientists, biologists, and physicists will conduct interdisciplinary research working as teams in the new building.

This science not only needs to be understood, but applied, King said, and ways found to bring scientific discoveries to the marketplace. The chancellor called the new building “a house of hope” in that the research pursued there will contribute to our understanding of how to fight diseases.

In addition to the president and chancellor, speakers included Joan Wick-Pelletier, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Constance D’Ambra, wife of Thomas D’Ambra, CEO of Albany Molecular Research, Inc. The new auditorium was named for Mr. and Mrs. D’Ambra. Among the UAlbany scientists who either are or will be working in the new building are: professors Dmitry Belostotsky, George Berg, Richard Cunningham, Cheryl Frye, Ravindra Gupta, Igor Lednev, Greg Lnenicka, Carolyn MacDonald, Li Niu, Robert Osuna, Jamie Rusconi, Alexander Shekhtman, Caro-Beth Stewart, Ben Szaro, Christine Wagner, Ing-Nang Wang, Sho-Ya Wang, and Richard Zitomer.

Examples of some of the core equipment and technologies that will support research in the new building include:

• Molecular biology suite

• Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

• Bioinformatics suite and DNA sequencing facility, among others.

One of the goals of the new facility is to develop research partnerships with private sector firms and initiatives with neighboring institutions, including Albany Medical Center, Rensselaer, the Albany College of Pharmacy, the Wadsworth Center, and the Ordway Institute.

Under Tom D’Ambra’s leadership of the Life Sciences Research Initiative Campaign, $6 million has been raised of the $20 million needed to hire new faculty and meet the University’s share of the costs of the new facility. Of that $6 million, the D’Ambras made a $1 million challenge grant when they launched the private sector campaign in November 2001, which was matched by the Silverman Foundation’s donation of $1 million. A number of other major gifts were made by UAlbany alumni, regional and national corporate partners, and faculty and friends of the University.

Joining Ryan, King, Mrs. D’Ambra, and Wick-Pelletier in cutting the ribbon for the new building were: Assemblymen Ronald Canestrari and Paul Tonko; University at Albany Foundation Chair George Hearst; Dr. David Martin, deputy director of Wadsworth Laboratories, representing Department of Health Commissioner Antonia Novello; John Egan, president of Renaissance Corp., representing Marty Silverman; Steven Gifford, managing principal for the New York regional office of Hillier architects; Millis, and John Welch, chair of the Department of Chemistry.