LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2011) − The top two floors of the University of Kentucky’s BioPharm Complex were dedicated at a formal ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 29, capping construction on the 286,000 square-foot facility. The building is home to the UK College of Pharmacy, the nation’s 5th-ranked pharmacy school.
The fourth floor will house UK College of Pharmacy researchers while the fifth floor will have a cancer research focus, with faculty and researchers from the Markey Cancer Center utilizing the space.
In January 2010, the first three floors in the facility opened with pharmacy courses and many pharmacy faculty moving into the facility at that time. The fourth and fifth floor of the building was “shelled” during the first phase of construction. Now complete, the two floors will provide UK with 84,000 gross square feet of research and research office space.
“This is a stunning facility,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “It is a fitting home to one of the best colleges of pharmacy in the nation, where our exemplary students have the 21st century tools they need to continue the UK tradition as serving as pacesetters in pharmacy practice.
“These two new floors hold promise for the future of the University’s research enterprise. It provides us the type of leading-edge facilities that will help UK retain and recruit some of the best scientific minds in the world – research leaders who will help us improve health care for Kentuckians across the Commonwealth.”
Though construction on the fourth and fifth floor was only recently completed, the new space is already paying dividends. The UK College of Pharmacy and Markey Cancer Center have partnered to recruit two high-profile researchers to join the faculty.
Peixuan Guo, one of the top three nanobiotechnology experts in the world, will share a joint appointment with the UK College of Pharmacy and Markey Cancer Center. His lab, which will be located on the fifth floor, is scheduled to move from the University of Cincinnati to UK in January 2012.
In addition, he will be bringing four research faculty members, five postdoctoral fellows, and 13 graduate students with him. Guo will bring more than $10 million in research funding. For the past four years, he has also been the director of a National Institutes of Health Nanomedicine Development Center, one of only eight such centers in the country. That Center is moving to UK. Guo is also a high-tech entrepreneur and is the founder of two biotechnology companies including Kylin Therapeutics, Inc.
Jon Thorson, who started at UK on Oct. 31, was recruited to the UK College of Pharmacy to lead the College’s new Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI).
Thorson’s research is focused on developing antibiotics and anticancer drugs from natural products. He is the co-founder of a start-up company in Madison, Wisc., called Centrose, a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of therapies for the treatment of cancer and other hard-to-treat diseases.
“We are thrilled to have Drs. Guo and Thorson join our team,” said Timothy S. Tracy, dean of the UK College of Pharmacy. “I applaud the Markey Cancer Center for partnering with us to bring them to campus. When you combine their expertise with the already talented faculty and staff at the University, I can’t wait to see the type of innovative collaborations that will be born thanks to this facility.”
Existing pharmacy faculty and new recruits will move into the fourth floor in the months ahead. The Markey Cancer Center plans to utilize the space to bolster the center’s efforts as they seek National Cancer Institute designation.
“This fifth floor of the BioPharm Complex provides us a unique opportunity to make our strong cancer research program even stronger,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center. “The Markey Cancer Center is applying for National Cancer Institute designation in September 2012 and having this 21st century collaborative space available will help us differentiate ourselves from other applicants.”
The cost to fit out the fourth and fifth floor was $26 million, with UK providing the funding for this portion of the project. All told, the BioPharm Complex was a $160 million project as the first construction phase totaled $134 million. Funding for the building included $120 million from the Kentucky state legislature with $40 million appropriated in 2004 as first-phase funding and an additional $80 million funded in 2006. Additional funding has come from the University and private donors.