The catalytic field of bioengineering, which is developing innovative health care solutions for the 21st century, has a new home on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The Bioscience 2 Building, a 112,000-square-foot facility at 12705 E. Montview Blvd., promises to propel medical advances and collaborations in its multifaceted role as an education center, research hub and industry incubator.
Campus leaders celebrated the collaborations that created this cutting-edge facility, and looked forward to the pioneering discoveries to come, during a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 18. More than 100 guests, including students, faculty, researchers, physicians and industry representatives, attended the Bioscience 2 open house, which included tours of the labs and private-industry work spaces.
Event speakers included CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman; Steve VanNurden, president and CEO of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority (FRA); Brian Freed, PhD, executive director of ClinImmune Labs and professor in the CU School of Medicine (SOM); and Robin Shandas, PhD, professor and founding chair of the Bioengineering Department. Other dignitaries included CU Regent Sue Sharkey, Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, and Marc Ingber, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Shandas was lauded for having the vision and tenacity to press university leadership for a bioscience building at CU Anschutz, where bioengineering students and faculty enjoy easy access to health care providers and researchers as well as industry professionals. “That’s why we’re here – we should all be grateful he did that,” Elliman said of Shandas. “This combination – the ability of our students and faculty to work on innovations in engineering and health care – is unique certainly to us at the University of Colorado, and is one of the more unique programs in the United States today.”
Elliman called Bioscience 2 “a spectacular facility” and said it came about through collaborations between CU, the FRA and the city of Aurora. Health-tech startups are growing out of CU research, including three firms that are currently in Bioscience 2: ClinImmune Labs, iC42 and Precision Biopsy.
Freed, head of ClinImmune Labs, pointed out that the freezers in the building store more than 10,000 stem-cell products which are at the forefront of developing new medical therapies. “These are the therapies that are going to benefit our patients and all the residents in this area,” he said. “It would not have been possible without this expanded facility.”
The facility boasts clinical specimen freezers for all of the campus laboratory services, including the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank (UCCBB), CariCord (The Stem Cell Bank at CU) and genetic testing labs. “Those labs, in fact, will be in some respects part of the foundation of our first major strategic initiative, which is precision medicine,” Elliman said. “It’s going to be an exciting and happening place.”
Shandas said the field of bioengineering promises the next generation of cures for disease as well as improved lifestyles for patients. He said many of the advances will come from students in the Bioengineering Department, who integrate the disciplines of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science into effective and practical engineering designs. “They’re going to design the things that are going to help you and your kids and grandkids in the future,” he said. “These are the things that we’re doing in this building.”
Guests enjoyed interactive research demonstrations by bioengineering faculty and students. The Bioengineering Department, which is part of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, has grown from an inaugural class of 14 graduate students in 2010 to 160 students today in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate students take the first two years of coursework on the CU Denver campus. In Bioscience 2, students are exposed to 3-D printing as well as a wealth of labs, including biomechatronics, biodesign and biophotonics.
“It’s a tremendously integrated field, and for that reason we need a building like this on this campus (CU Anschutz),” Shandas said. He encouraged everyone to support the program as well as consider contributing to scholarship funds for students, “so they can go to the lab and work rather the shopping mall to work.”
‘Truly a team effort’
VanNurden, CEO of FRA, said the building project came in under budget and ahead of schedule and was gratifying to work on because of the professionalism and efficiency of all participants. “If I were to look at this as a startup company, this would have been the easiest, best startup I’ve ever done, because of the team,” he said. “It was truly a team effort.”
Elliman said Bioscience 2’s location on the north side of Montview Boulevard represents a “beachhead” for the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, which has arranged to purchase 26 acres of FRA land because the university is running out of space on the south side of Montview.
“It’s exciting to have our students and faculty in bioengineering working directly with the medical faculty from the medical school across the street,” Elliman said. “That’s a combination that we think could lead to some truly amazing things.”