CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Post Genomic Institute, a cutting-edge facility expected to lead the nation in biological research, was launched June 5 with a groundbreaking ceremony on the Urbana campus.
Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich joined University of Illinois President James J. Stukel, Chancellor Nancy Cantor, PGI Director Harris Lewin, members of the university board of trustees and state and local officials at the groundbreaking for the facility, which is expected to put Illinois at the forefront of modern biological research and foster economic development in the state.
The $73.5 million institute being built on Gregory Drive in Urbana, just west of Bevier Hall, will comprise 107,000 square feet of state-of-the art laboratory, conference and classroom space. The facility will be designed to support multidisciplinary collaboration among university scientists and outside partners and to promote technology transfer of new advances in genomic biology.
"One hundred thirty-five years of leadership in agriculture, chemistry and life sciences and a half century of groundbreaking work in computing have prepared us for this moment," Stukel said. "This university and this campus are unique in their intercession of biotechnology and computing talent. It is a powerful combination that will be expressed in PGI."
The institute will fuse the campus's strengths in biology, engineering, the humanities and the life sciences to address critical societal issues in many spheres, Cantor said.
The institute is expected to play a pivotal role in the state's economic growth by helping launch new industries, creating jobs and attracting talented researchers and students to the university.
"The mapping of the genome has been described as the most important scientific event in human history," Blagojevich said. "Today Illinois is already among the frontrunners in biotechnology research but we need to be smart about making the most of that head start by investing now. A research center of this caliber will bring together the best minds, national funding and cutting-edge facilities at the University of Illinois. Breaking new ground is what this university does best."
Lawrence Eppley, the chair of the board of trustees; State Rep. Rick Winkel; State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson and former State Sen. Stan Weaver were recognized by Blagojevich for their work in bringing the project to fruition.
Lewin, the institute's inaugural director, is a pioneering animal geneticist renowned for his research in comparative mammalian genomics and immunogenetics. An Illinois faculty member since 1984, Lewin founded the immunology program in the department of animal sciences. He holds the prestigious Gutgsell Endowed Chair in the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences and faculty appointments in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Microelectronics Laboratory.
Lewin and other campus leaders will be defining the institute's research themes and recruiting faculty members using funding from the state's Venture Tech program.
The facility, designed by CUH2A of Chicago, is being funded with state-issued bonds and is slated for completion in mid-2006.