UI shows off biomedical facility


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Diabetes research will soon have a new champion as experts begin to occupy a new, high-tech space on the University of Iowa campus.

Faculty at the UI Carver College of Medicine have begun to occupy the brand-new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building’s advanced laboratories, and they will hopefully be able to use the top of the line equipment to great effect.

“In order to solve these big problems like diabetes, and diabetes is a huge problem not only in this country but around the world today, is going to take more than some small group of researchers in some small unit over in the Carver College of Medicine,” UI President Sally Mason said. “We know that.”

The process of moving into the building and getting it fully operational will be ongoing for the next couple of months, medical school facility manager Steve Schlote said. 

According to the UI Facilities Management website, construction should be completed by July 31.
It is the newest building on the UI’s Health Science Campus and cost nearly $126 million. It stands 10 stories high.

The building will include a floor dedicated to diabetes research, high-end MRI equipment, and a café serving Java House coffee.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles, an international nonprofit organization, provided $25 million in funding towards the diabetes research center.

Much of the equipment it houses is on the cutting edge of medical technology.  The laboratories are also significantly larger than those that faculty had access to previously.

“[It’s] state of the art not only in terms of the science that will go on in there, but for us it’s significant because all of the science that will go on in this facility will be interdisciplinary in nature,” Mason said.

For instance, the laboratories will be the home of one of the world’s most sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging instruments. The 42-ton behemoth is one of only 40 such devices in the world.

Researchers intend to use its capability to yield clear, high-resolution images of the brain to enrich their understanding of the brain’s various processes. The scanner cost about $8 million, which the university acquired by winning a grant from the National Institute of Health.

It’s not just about the equipment, though.

With that in mind university officials hired Professor Dale Abel from the University of Utah, a world-class researcher in diabetes, to head the diabetes research center.

He is in the process of recruiting young medical scientists with various specialties from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, said Joseph Brennan, the UI vice president for Strategic Communication.

They will investigate the link between diabetes and other ailments, such as hypertension and cancer, in order to better understand them.  One of the researchers, Chris Adams, was an undergraduate biology student of Mason’s at the University of Kansas many years ago.

For researchers, as well as those benefitting from the fruits of their labor the long construction process has been well worth the wait.

“It’s going to bring us into the 21st century in terms of lab space,” Schlote said.

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