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Posted 08.29.05

MU's Life Sciences Center Celebrates First Successful Year

COLUMBIA, MO -- Growing pains, hectic schedules, millions of dollars in grants and recruitment of top-notch researchers have all been a part of the first year at the University of Missouri-Columbia Life Sciences Center. All of this success is being attributed to a successful start. The $60 million facility officially opened its doors in September 2004. The state-of-the-art center now houses 27 primary investigators who have won more than $14 million in grants. The researchers have 59 proposals pending totaling more than $47 million.

"I'm surprised by how fast we've been able to move along with recruiting and moving investigators into the facility," said R. Mike Roberts, director of the Life Sciences Center. "We've established a team here that works together in a positive manner."

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The goal of the Life Sciences Center is to foster collaboration and encourage interdisciplinary research. The design of the building promotes this idea with its fluid space, open labs and airy atrium where scientists must cross paths, since offices are not placed inside the labs. The Life Sciences Center is not a place for scientific introversion, according to Roberts.

"There are many budding collaborations," Roberts said. "I think we'll know better in three years time how successful we've been."

A major interdisciplinary research project to develop soybean plants that are resistant to soybean rust is underway at the Life Sciences Center. Gary Stacey, professor and associate director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology, said the broad effort brings together experts in plant science, biochemistry and soybean breeding. The work is supported by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

"This collaboration allows us to take a biotech approach to the problem and more classic approaches at the same time," Stacey said. "We even have field trials going on in Vietnam. We are growing soybeans in Vietnam because they have problems with soybean rust. This allows us to try to develop something resistant and bring it back to Missouri and other parts of the United States."

The vision for the Life Sciences Center is for it to become recognized world-wide as a center of scientific excellence and leadership in life sciences research, innovation and education. Long term goals for the center include: to promote an entrepreneurial environment in the center, to increase industry-sponsored research, to foster even greater collaboration with the scientific disciplines across campus, and enhance the value of the training experience for students.


Life Sciences Center Quick Facts

  • $60 million facility dedicated in September 2004
  • The LSC brings together six schools and colleges: the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the School of Medicine, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Three core facilities: DNA, protein/proteomics and imaging
  • 250-seat auditorium and conference center
  • 24 investigators, with their teams, now reside in the LSC.
  • Approximately 37 investigators will be housed in the LSC when it is at full occupancy.
  • Fully staffed with laboratory and support personnel, the LSC is expected to hold 350 people by this time next year. The LSC currently holds 226 people.
  • As of July 1, 2005, 20 LSC investigators held more than $14 million in grants.
  • 91 percent of LSC research funding has come from federal sources
  • LSC investigators currently have 59 proposals pending totaling more than $47 million
  • The LSC includes central resources such as: an information technology suite, small animal facilities, plant and insect growth facilities, greenhouses, state-of-the-art research labs, teaching labs, administrative suite, reading room, and on-site major electrical and equipment repair shops.
  • The LSC focuses on research and education in three primary areas: the supply and quality of food, prevention and treatment of disease, and protection and improvement of our environment.
  • There are presently seven scientific groupings in the LSC.
    • Programming Cellular Development
    • Inflammation and Environmental Stress
    • Microbial Pathogenesis and Gene Therapy
    • Biophotonics
    • Neural Basis of Learning and Behavior
    • Integrative Plant Biology: from molecules to environment
    • Integrative Genomics: from DNA to agriculture

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