Proposal could benefit research

A possible $330 million could help the University and the state.

Yelena Kibasova

A proposal requesting $330 million for new biomedical science research facilities has the potential to benefit many in the Twin Cities, said Regent Tony Baraga.

The funding would allow the University to build one bioscience building every two years for the next 10 years.

According to Baraga, who is chairman of the Board of Regents, the facilities would help the University “stay in competition and in touch with the research going on at other major universities in the United States.”

The total cost for the facilities, adjusted for inflation, would be $366 million, of which the University would pay 10 percent.

The proposal is in House and Senate committees.

According to the proposal, the facilities would be nearly 750,000 square feet and house 40 faculty members and 120 research staff members in each building.

“There’s a lot of (universities) competing for good people,” Baraga said.

Richard Isaacson, professor and chairman of the department of veterinary and biomedical sciences, said, “If you want to recruit somebody to Minnesota Ö you have to be able to provide them resources. If you can’t compete, then it’s hard to get the really top-notch people.”

As an example, it is critical for Isaacson – who conducts research – to have good air-handling quality because he works with bacteria.

He said state-of-the-art instrumentation and sufficient space also are important.

Ronald Siegel, professor and head of the pharmaceutics 3department, said the University’s current research facilities are very good. However, he said, “We just don’t have enough of them and we don’t have any capacity to recruit new faculty.”

Some University students disagreed that the University lacks research space.

“Instead of using the money to build more facilities, we can use it to attract potential researchers and use it as a budget for their research,” said Tes Kebede, a biomedical engineering junior.

The University is competing in biomedical research with other national universities. Universities in California, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Florida are directing resources toward research.

“If we don’t (invest), we’re going to fall behind,” Isaacson said. “If we really want to be in the top three (public research institutions in the world), there’s no way we can do it without continuing to invest.”

The new facilities would benefit almost everyone in the area, Baraga said.

“It spins off a lot of secondary businesses in our state, especially in the metropolitan area,” he said. “It’s (also) good for the students, (and) it brings a lot of research dollars to our University.”

Professors at the University apply their research to their teaching, Baraga said.

Isaacson said he hopes the funding also will benefit departments on the St. Paul campus.

“Our facilities in the College of Veterinary Medicine are so old and out of date that from a biological safety and up-to-date research standpoint, I think it’s something we need,” he said. “It would put us into the current state of art (because) we’re pretty behind in some of that here.”

Baraga said there is no exact location for the facilities. Isaacson said the buildings might be built on the north side of campus, where there are other research facilities.