Jan. 11, 2010 | About six months before its grand opening, supporters of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute gathered for the first-ever news conference in the atrium of its new tower.
“I am proud to announce that the Cancer Institute has been awarded a nearly $10.5 million construction grant from the National Institutes of Health,” Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D., told the crowd of about 70 people.
Emanuel was joined in making the announcement by Gov. Mike Beebe; Dan Rahn, M.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) chancellor; and Alan Sugg, Ph.D., University of Arkansas System president.
The grant will fund completion of two research laboratory floors in the institute’s 12-story expansion, which is scheduled to open its first phase this summer. Funding for the grant comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus monies allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for construction grants.
“The cornerstone of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute is our research program. Completion of these two research floors will be a huge step in expanding our research capabilities and our ability to search for the causes and future treatments of many types of cancer,” Emanuel said.
The $10,458,675 grant will fund completion of the ninth and 11th floors in the institute’s second tower, resulting in an additional 33,660 net square feet of research space. The Cancer Institute is Arkansas’ only academic cancer research center.
“Not only is this grant important for UAMS and for our patients, it also is a boost for our economy and for job creation,” Rahn said. The project will create about 123 construction-related jobs in the short term and about 87 sustainable research-related positions. Expected completion of the floors is mid-2011.
The research floors will be the first on the UAMS campus to have what is called an “open lab bench” configuration. In this configuration, researchers are not housed in traditional labs, but instead share a large open space designed to encourage interaction and collaboration, in addition to promoting a more cost-efficient use of shared equipment.
“The open lab design to be used at the Cancer Institute is very important in fostering research teams, recruiting new scientists and promoting forward-thinking research,” Rahn said.
Awarded through a highly competitive peer-review process, the construction grant will be administered by the National Center for Research Resources, the same agency that last year awarded UAMS a Clinical and Translational Science Award.
Beebe praised the efforts of Sugg and UAMS Chancellor Emeritus I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., for their work in ensuring that all 12 stories of the building would be constructed, even when funds for completion of the building’s interior had not yet been secured.
Wilson retired as UAMS chancellor in October 2009 and had a lead role in securing a $36 million matching funds program from the Arkansas Legislature for construction of the tower. The match was met with private philanthropic funds in May 2009.
“Because of their foresight, and the foresight of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, we have the ability to incrementally complete these floors, just as we have announced today,” Beebe said. “If we had not completed all 12 floors at the outset, we would not have had the opportunity to apply for and receive this federal funding. Too often people forget about the foresight that goes into projects on the front end and comes to fruition in the future.”