Cancer research center to double scientists Chris Rauber - San Francisco Business Times | 20-Oct-2008
Cancer research center to double scientists UCSF’s $100M hub to hold 414 staffers San Francisco Business Times - by Chris Rauber
Spencer Brown “(It) obviously is a wonderful step for us,” says McCormick of the February move to 162,000 square feet in Mission Bay. View Larger UC San Francisco is preparing to open a $100 million cancer research center next year that will double the number of researchers the institution has dedicated to studying the disease.
Researchers are scheduled to start moving into University of California, San Francisco’s new Helen Diller Family Cancer Center Research Building as early as February, although officials say it will be months before the new complex is fully occupied.
Dr. Frank McCormick, director of both the Diller cancer center and its Cancer Research Institute, will run the center at the 162,000-square-foot Mission Bay research building.
“(It) obviously is a wonderful step for us,” he told the Business Times. All told, UCSF has about 250 cancer researchers, scattered throughout its campuses in San Francisco, and that will jump to 414 when the new, five-story facility is fully staffed, which McCormick said will take several years. UCSF will need to recruit about 164 new researchers to fill the complex.
The broad hope, according to McCormick and other officials, is that mixing the various labs and disciplines in the same center will create intriguing new opportunities for communication and cross-fertilization among the specialized researchers.
Those Diller center scientists will be affiliated with UCSF’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only center in Northern California that holds the National Cancer Institute’s “comprehensive” designation. The new space will allow UCSF to expand programs that focus on urologic and brain cancers, according to the university, and will house its Cancer Research Institute, which includes 15 major labs that are investigating cancer’s basic biological mechanisms.
(According to UCSF, its cancer researchers have grants that total $181.5 million annually from all sources, and the university ranks eighth in support from the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. The Diller cancer center ranks sixth in grants among more than 60 NCI-designated cancer centers nationally, and first by far among the 10 centers in California.)
The new space will also let UCSF consolidate, in full or in part, research programs such as its Brain Tumor Research Center, urologic oncology (which includes prostate, kidney and bladder cancer) and its population sciences program, a multi-disciplinary program that includes epidemiology, chemo-prevention, screening, health communication, behavioral science, health services, health policy, surveillance and “survivorship” research, officials say. Currently, many of those programs are scattered across UCSF’s Parnassus and Mt. Zion campuses, along with temporary quarters elsewhere at Mission Bay.
The design of the building is meant to reflect the desire for collaboration.
A central atrium and an open stairway design that gives staffers the ability to see people above and below are meant to encourage interaction and “prevent balkanization,” McCormick said. “It’s very cool.”
Other clinical and research connections at Mission Bay will be possible when UCSF’s proposed $1.7 billion women’s, children’s and cancer specialty hospital opens, probably in 2014, based on a report to the University of California’s Regents.
The complex was designed by Rafael Vinoly, and officials say it will serve as an “elegant modern counterpoint” to the more traditional architecture of nearby Genentech Hall and the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Hall.
Unspecified construction “issues” have delayed the project somewhat, but McCormick insists that “it’s been a pretty fast project. I think we’ve done pretty well.”
The project is expected to cost “north of $100 million,” he said. So far, UCSF has received gifts and pledges for the complex totalling just over $80 million, according to spokeswoman Kirsten Michener, and needs an additional $30 million “due to increased construction costs.”
Top donors include: the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which contributed $35 million, the Atlantic Philanthropies, which made a $20 million matching gift, and Champion Charities, which chipped in $5 million for construction of the new center. Michener said 32 donors have given $10,000 or more, including 17 who’ve given $500,000 or more.
The reward, according to McCormick, will be “expanding and better integrating key research activities into the Mission Bay environment, and taking the first big step toward integration of the research and clinical worlds at Mission Bay.”
UCSF’s Cancer Central Facility: Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, Mission Bay. Location: 1450 Third St., San Francisco. Architect: Rafael Vinoly. Expected opening: June 2009, although some researchers will start moving in by February. Size: Five stories, 162,000 square feet. Cost: More than $100 million. Researchers: 414, over several years. Labs: 46. Primary research focus: Basic cancer research, brain tumors, urologic oncology (prostate, kidney, bladder and testicular cancer). Source: UCSF.