Texas Children’s Is First TMC Institution To Join Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative

July 27, 2009

Texas Children’s Hospital today became the first Texas Medical Center institution to lease space in Rice University’s new BioScience Research Collaborative, a place where scientists and educators from the university and TMC institutions will work together to perform research that benefits human medicine and health.
Conceptualized and built by Rice, the 477,000-square-foot BRC is equipped for cutting-edge laboratory, theoretical and computational investigations and features eight floors of research labs, classrooms and auditoriums. It is designed to eventually accommodate a visualization center and an entire floor dedicated to biomedical informatics.
“We believe that this building and the collaborative work that it will foster between Rice and other institutions of the TMC will provide a new impetus to the leadership in medical research of the Texas Medical Center,” Rice University President David Leebron said. “Texas Children’s Hospital, with its strong commitment to medical research as well as teaching and health delivery, has become an increasingly important partner for Rice, and we are immensely pleased to enter this new and deeper phase of working together. With better and more integrative research facilities that enable researchers and doctors to work more closely together across disciplines and institutions, we can be confident in our ability to be leaders in contributing to new breakthroughs in medical treatments that will benefit people not only here in Houston, but across the globe.”
Ranked among the top 10 best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s will lease space on the eighth floor of the 10-story BRC for 10 years, with an option to renew up to 40 years. Because the space is still under construction, dates for occupancy have not been finalized.
“Texas Children’s Hospital is proud to be the very first partner of the BRC, this amazing venture that will provide the catalyst for new discoveries in medical research, right here in Houston – at the heart of the Texas Medical Center,” said Mark A. Wallace, Texas Children’s president and CEO.
The BRC is designed to facilitate joint research between Rice’s experts in biological sciences, engineering, computation, and the physical and mathematical sciences and the Texas Medical Center medical physicians and scientists.
Several Rice researchers have already moved their labs into the BRC, including Professors Vicki Colvin and John McDevitt, both of whom are exploring the use of nanotechnology in health care. Colvin and her research group are currently investigating ways to make nanoparticles safer in medical applications, among other endeavors. As part of his work in nanohealth, McDevitt and his group are testing a new “nano-bio-chip” system that diagnoses heart attacks, cancer and HIV status by testing a person’s saliva or blood.

Although patients will not be treated at the BRC, they will benefit from new treatments developed there by researchers, physicians and scientists, Leebron said. For example, nanobiotechnology is expected to be used increasingly to design noninvasive treatments for diseases that now require surgery.

“Progress and leadership in biomedicine and biotechnology now depends on very close interplay between the areas of basic scientific research centered primarily in university science and engineering departments and the areas of modern biomedical science centered primarily in medical schools and research hospitals,” said Eugene Levy, Rice provost. “Working together in a center designed for collaboration and so ideally situated to unleash the power of multidisciplinary scientific collaboration, colleagues from Rice University and TMC institutions will be vastly better positioned for the breakthroughs that will define bioscience and biomedical progress in the 21st century. It is especially thrilling to have Texas Children’s Hospital joining Rice in this exciting adventure. Texas Children’s is unsurpassed in the distinction of its healthcare delivery and leading-edge biomedical research.”
Levy noted that, while there are other multidisciplinary research buildings, the BRC is special because it is also designed to be multi-institutional.  “Its position at the center of the combined Rice–TMC campus gives the BRC a rare capacity to house researchers from a variety of disciplines and institutions, and to serve as a catalytic environment for groundbreaking research,” he said. “Although the BRC will foster programs and events specifically aimed at promoting collaborations, frequently it is an impromptu conversation over a cup of coffee that sparks new and productive directions of research.”

The largest building project that Rice has ever undertaken, the BRC houses a 280-seat auditorium, a 100-seat seminar room, classrooms and 10,000 square feet of retail space for a restaurant and shops, as well as three levels of underground parking. The site includes the potential for adding a second research tower that could add another 150,000 gross square feet.
Designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill and constructed by Linbeck, the BRC meets the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The BRC’s sustainable design features include: an air-quality monitoring system that will enable significant energy savings in cooling and heating labs; a vegetated “green” roof that will reduce storm-water runoff and energy consumption; condensate water produced by the air-handling units will be captured and piped to Rice’s South Plant for use in its cooling tower; and groundwater pumped from beneath the parking garage will be used to irrigate the baseball field at Reckling Park. In addition, approximately 75 percent of the building’s construction waste is being recycled.
Parts of the BRC remain under construction. Over the next several months, more Rice research teams will make the move, including the rest of Rice’s Department of Bioengineering, the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Beyond Traditional Borders, Rice 360°, the Texas-UK Collaborative Research Initiative and the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology. The Gulf Coast Consortia, which represents researchers in six TMC institutions, will also move to the BRC early next year.
Negotiations are under way with several other TMC institutions about leasing space in the BRC. For more information about the BRC and a full list of researchers who will be housed there, visit www.rice.edu/brc.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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