Committee to decide fate of research facility funds

by Brad Unangst

The University’s latest attempt to revive the Medical School’s national reputation is at the mercy of state legislators.

House representatives denied funding for a Translational Research Facility in their initial bonding bill, which was rejected late Thursday night. But the House is expected to pass a bonding bill with the same higher education recommendations in the coming days. A proposed $36 million medical research and
treatment center, the facility would be located next to the Lions Research Building, north of the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex.

“(The facility) was a very expensive building, so it was a question of what things meet our criteria,” said Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley. “The buildings we did fund were science buildings that needed to be replaced or renovated.”

The building would allow researchers to collaborate with physicians performing clinical work to bring treatment and cures to patients faster, said Sarah Youngerman, spokeswoman for the University’s Academic Health Center.

“TRF really acts as a hub of bringing those clinical and basic scientists’ work to a central location where they can work collaboratively and understand what each other is doing in case there might be opportunities to leverage one person’s research for another person’s opportunities,” Youngerman said.

The facility would also quicken the transition between research results from animal testing to humans, she said. “What we’re envisioning is a facility where that kind of collaboration goes on together.”

The $36 million facility requires $24 million in state funding and $12 million in private funding.

While House Republicans did not include the building in their $839 million bonding bill proposal, Senate members put the building’s future on hold until a conference committee decides its fate.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL- Crystal, said there is a 50-50 chance the building will receive funding from the committee, which is composed of senators and representatives from both parties.

“I felt it was a University priority and should have been funded,” Carlson said.