UC Irvine broke ground today on a new stem cell research building that will strengthen and unify this fast-growing field on campus and throughout Southern California.

The four-story, 100,636-square-foot building will house the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, dozens of laboratory-based and clinical researchers, a stem cell techniques course, a master’s program in biotechnology with an emphasis on stem cell research, and programs and activities for patients and public education. The building is scheduled for completion in July 2010.

“This is a great day for UC Irvine,” Chancellor Michael Drake said. “Today’s groundbreaking is a testament to the strength of our stem cell research program. As construction of this facility moves forward, so does our dedication to breakthrough research, public education and the development of future stem cell therapies.”

This $66.6 million building is possible thanks to a $27.2 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which funds stem cell research statewide, as well as generous donations, equipment grants and external financing. It will be named Sue and Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute after the couple that donated $10 million in July 2006 to support stem cell research at UCI.

Modeled after the existing Hewitt Hall, Gross Hall will be located within the heart of UCI’s Biomedical Research Center in the Health Sciences Complex. It will include the core stem cell laboratory and equipment for human embryonic stem cell line derivation, cell culture, differentiation and purification, and cell and tissue imaging. It also will include clinical space with resources for patient care.

The fourth floor and basement will be constructed as shell space, to be built out as additional funding becomes available.

“Our building will be a home base for all stem cell work on campus,” said Peter Donovan, stem cell center co-director. “It will make possible better collaboration and will streamline the movement of future therapies from laboratory to clinic.”

UCI’s stem cell scientists are pioneers in regeneration, large-scale production of specialized cells with very high purity, and methods for treating damaged tissues.

“The new facility will give our program room to grow with ample space for new discoveries and free exchange of ideas,” said Hans Keirstead, also stem cell center co-director. “Momentum is building here at UCI, and we are excited to see what the future holds.”

UCI is recruiting new faculty members to expand its stem cell research and regenerative medicine programs. Along with other campus resources and support, this commitment is worth about $17.5 million over the next 10 years.

Said Susan Bryant, vice chancellor for research: “Breaking ground for this new building is a major milestone for the campus and for the future of stem cell and regenerative medicine research at UCI.”
About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly 2,000 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.6 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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