Texas A&M University Health Science Center officially doubled its research space Tuesday with the grand opening of the new Medical Research and Education Building II.
“That’s a very special thing for a university president to be able to say,” Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young told the crowd during a Tuesday ceremony. The space will see multiple disciplines come together to address problems such as “Alzheimer’s, cancer, dementia, all sorts of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, all of these things that really are powerfully important for us to be able to address,” he said.
Young said the building — located off Texas 47 in Bryan at 8447 Riverside Parkway — represents the purpose of a land grant institution to solve problems in the state, the country and the world. In the end, though, the building is just a tool, he said. The true impact will come from those inside who make the discoveries.
“When you see these extraordinary breakthroughs, you will know this architectural team, this design team, the great collaboration between [Bryan and College Station] and the county and the university and the system have been important, but it is these people who will use this facility that will actually change the world,” he said. “That makes this a very special place. It makes it a very special place in Bryan, a very special place in Bryan-College Station, a very special place in Texas; indeed, a very special place on this planet.”
The new 155,077-square-foot facility includes 48 research labs, 36 procedure rooms, 28 tissue culture rooms, six drosophila rooms, six imaging rooms, one MRI room, one confocal room, a multidisciplinary lab with the capacity for up to 240 students, a biosafety level three containment lab and a vivarium where lab-sized animals will be kept.
“MREB II adds the square footage needed to bring together all the basic science departments of the College of Medicine to one campus,” a press release stated. “Previously, the college housed laboratories in MREB I as well as on campuses in College Station and Temple.”
The additional space then creates a more “comprehensive academic health center,” Vice Chancellor for Health Services Dr. Carrie Byington said.
As faculty members make new advances, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said, the work done in the new Medical Research and Education Building II could be what propels the university beyond the $1 billion mark in research.
Created for collaboration, Byington said, “this building was carefully designed to help researchers and students thrive, to bring state-of-the-art research facilities together and to make it possible for our students and faculty to interact in a seamless way.”
David Zawieja, regents professor and department of medical physiology chair, was one of about 40 Texas A&M employees in his department who recently moved to the new Bryan facility from Temple. To now be under one roof means researchers who previously were more than 70 miles apart can work together.
“It’s still up to us to do it, but it makes the logistics way, way easier, so between that and it’s a beautiful facility ... this will give us great opportunities going forward,” he said.
“It’s really designed to optimize how people meet, interact,” Jim Samuel, regents professor and head of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, said about the design of the building. “The old-style buildings were little silos, and that didn’t enable people to be as interactive as might be possible. I think that’s very powerful.”
That was the purpose of the design, Mike Hellinghausen, principal and chief operation officer of OMNIPLAN Architects said, noting the reimagined design is meant to encourage “maximum interaction between diverse user groups.”
“It creates spaces to inspire collaboration among researchers from varying disciplines, allowing them to learn from each other, discover significant new insights and thereby accelerate medical research,” he said. The hope, Byington said, is for the interdisciplinary and interprofessional research to generate the advances and discoveries needed in health care.
In addition to research on Alzheimer’s and diseases such as cancer and heart disease, Byington said, researchers in the building are also looking at addiction, neurosciences and how space travel affects the human body with multiple astronauts located in the building.
“There is just a vast array of research going on here, all of which has the opportunity to not only develop our students as new scientists, but also to serve our community and the state of Texas and the nation,” she said.