Innovation & Research Park Aims to Speed Up Drug Development
Above, a rendering of part of the Rosalind Franklin research park. Construction is planned to start in September. – rosalindfranklin.edu
by Long Hwa-shu
North Chicago-based Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science plans to build a $50-million Innovation and Research Park with the goal to speed up the university’s nationally-recognized research into real treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
The first phase of the project, as approved by the university’s board of trustees, will include a four-story, 100,000-square-foot building for offices, meeting rooms and common areas on the first floor of the north side of the campus on Green Bay Road. The project is to be financed under a public and private partnership.
Ground-breaking is set for September with occupancy by summer 2019. When completed, the first phase is expected to create jobs and generate revenues up to $117 million, according to estimates by non-profit Lake County Partners which promotes business and industry.
Rosalind Franklin said it plans to add two more buildings in the future.
By developing a science park, the university said it expects to spur collaboration among scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs with the goal for faster translation of the university’s nationally-recognized research into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, mental illness and other diseases.
The first phase is expected to create jobs and generate revenues up to $117 million, according to estimates by non-profit Lake County Partners.
Calling the decision to build the science park “a commitment to a healthier future,” Dr. K. Michael Welch, university president and CEO, said, “Biomedical research and development can improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The research park will promote very intentional inter-disciplinary collaboration that might yield new answers to help people live longer.”
Dr. Welch is a neurologist and a former investigator in stroke and headache, funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Ronald Kaplan, the university’s executive vice president of research, called the science park an answer to “the lack of a centralized bio-startup ecosystem.”
To fund the $50-million project, Rosalind Franklin said it is working with the University Financing Foundation (TUFF), a not-for-profit organization. TUFF has built and managed science parks across the country including those at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Delaware, Louisiana State University and Florida Institute of Technology.
“We’re helping Rosalind Franklin University expand its impressive capabilities in a region noted for significant pharmaceutical and medical device company activity,” said TUFF president Kevin Byrne.
“Creating a space that enhances interactions and partnerships between the university and these innovative industries will help speed the translation of discovery into better health and life-saving treatments,” he added.
North Chicago is home to Abbott Laboratories and its spinoff AbbVie Inc.
At the start, the park is expected to house up to 175 researchers focused on neuro science and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and muscular dystrophy, according to university officials.
The university is in partnership with SmartHealth Activator in North Chicago to facilitate the founding of biotech startups by the university faculty. NeuroLucent, for example, was launched by early last year by Beth Stutzmann, an associate professor who is a neuroscientist, on the strength of her study of target compounds that show promise in preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.