MU is one step closer to breaking ground on its top building priority — the Translational Precision Medicine Complex.
The UM System Board of Curators met Friday and approved preliminary plans for each of the four campuses — Columbia, Rolla, St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as MU Health Care. At its March 2018 meeting, the board will vote on final approval for the projects.
The No. 1 priority for MU and the UM System, the $200 million medicine complex, will be built at College Avenue and Hospital Drive. Translational medicine is the combination of research and application: inventing new ways to treat and diagnose illnesses and then using them to help actual patients. Precision medicine is the practice of tailoring medical treatment to the molecule-by-molecule makeup of the patient.
“Precision medicine is the future,” MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said. “This facility will put Missouri at the forefront of precision medicine.”
Cartwright screened a video for the board promoting the complex. The video touted the potential for convergence between researchers and physicians, as well as among academic programs such as medicine and veterinary medicine. The video included uplifting music, people in lab coats dramatically peering into microscopes, slow-motion footage of elaborate machines and a Corgi with sensors attached to it running in a glass tub of water.
The National Institutes of Health points to translational medicine as a “major focus” going forward for research funding, so MU’s complex has the potential to draw research grants and build on MU’s status as a member of the Association of American Universities — a 62-member club of universities at the forefront of research and education.
“It will play a crucial role in MU’s future success,” Cartwright said.
The plans approved Friday are not final, but they represent a step forward in the capital planning process that curator David Steelman compared to a funnel. At the top of the funnel, where it’s widest, ideas are approved by curators most often and are the least fleshed out. As plans progress along the funnel, more and more research goes into how much exactly they’ll cost and how they’ll be paid for. As each of the projects is explored, the list narrows down to only the most important and feasible ones.
At this point in the process, said curator John Phillips, funding for projects is “loosey-goosey” and is the campuses’ “best guess.” In March, the exact costs and fundraising plans to pay for the projects are expected to be hammered out. The plan marks 2019 as the year to break ground on the complex.
- Renovation and addition to the Sinclair School of Nursing:
MU’s second building priority, the plan includes adding a 20,000 square-foot, three-story expansion to the nursing school to add more classrooms and labs. MU nursing Dean Judith Miller, who will retire in December, made her case for the expansion at the meeting, saying the school has worked hard for years to make the project happen.
“Not only is our school of nursing a treasure to the university,” Steelman said. “But Dean Miller is, too.”
“We all recognize the School of Nursing at MU is nationally recognized,” Phillips said, so it’s important that “we build to our strengths.” The nursing expansion isn’t just an important MU priority, Phillips said, but a system one as well.
- Medical science building — upgrade and maintenance of research vivarium:
The project includes a 20,900-square-foot renovation to modernize the space that was built in 1954.
- Library depository addition:
The proposed plan adds an expansion to the off-campus library depository on LeMone Boulevard. The site will house library archives, providing a space with the proper temperature and humidity.
Ann Riley, MU vice provost for libraries, spoke in favor of the project, pointing out that Ellis Library is the second most-used building on campus — behind only the MU Student Center.
“And we don’t serve food,” she added.
It is the library’s job, Riley said, to preserve the past, teach the present and predict the future needs of researchers. The $20 million off-campus repository addition would be a cost-effective way to save space at Ellis and preserve materials, she said.
- New journalism building:
The final project presented as an MU priority would demolish Neff Hall and its annex and build a five-story building to house the Columbia Missourian, KOMU, Vox, KBIA and the new Novak Leadership Institute. The proposed building would allow convergence among news media outlets and programs. The evolution of the journalism industry necessitates the project, the proposal says, because professionals are now expected to be “journalists-of-all-trades.”