CU to Celebrate Groundbreaking of World-Class Biotechnology Facility

Published: Sept. 3, 2009

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, Nobel Laureate and CU Distinguished Professor Tom Cech, CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano and members from the entire CU-Boulder community will gather Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 4:15 p.m. on the CU-Boulder East Campus to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building.

The state-of-the-art research and teaching facility will greatly enhance science and engineering education and discovery at CU, and bolster Colorado's position in the nation's biotechnology economy. The first phase of the building, comprising 257,000 square feet, is slated for completion in fall 2011, with plans for a 54,000-square-foot addition at a later date.

The building will house 60 senior faculty researchers and 500-plus research and support staff whose combined work will develop more effective medical diagnoses and therapies for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and infectious diseases, and create new opportunities in regenerative medicine. It also will house the university's Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, the department of chemical and biological engineering, and the biochemistry division faculty of the department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Activities within the Caruthers building also will include a powerful educational component that involves K-12 teachers and students and CU-Boulder undergraduates. CU-Boulder offers funding to hundreds of undergraduates annually for biomedical research and brings hands-on science education to thousands of Colorado K-12 teachers and their students through teacher workshops, courses and outreach programs to schools.

It also will help CU build on its distinguished record in biotechnology research -- which has generated more than a dozen biotech startup companies and currently attracts tens of millions of dollars annually in sponsored research awards.

"The research that will take place in the Caruthers Biotechnology Building at CU-Boulder will have a profound impact on Colorado's biotech economy," said Ritter. "This facility will continue to strengthen Colorado's business environment and elevate our bioscience ecosystem nationally and globally as we lead Colorado forward."

Colorado boasts particular potential in the biosciences, with its businesses generating more than $400 million in state taxes and supporting 36,000 workers. Coupled with CU's strong startup track record and accomplished faculty researchers, the new Caruthers building should further bolster the region's biotech strength.

More than half of the building's phase I cost already has been committed, including more than $60 million from the university, $20 million in gifts from CU Distinguished Professor Marvin Caruthers, $2 million from Jeannie Thompson, chair of the University of Colorado Foundation board of directors, and her husband, Jack, and other private gifts. Additional public and private support is being sought for building construction, which will be $120 million to $145 million for the first phase.

"This building will solidify the University of Colorado's position as a world leader in biotechnology and biochemistry," said CU President Bruce D. Benson. "It will provide leading-edge facilities to help foster collaboration among our faculty researchers and students from Boulder, Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus. It will draw on the talents of scientists and engineers from several disciplines and create an incubator where innovation and discovery thrive."

For the first time since its formation, the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology's research team, a "dream team" of scientists and engineers spanning eight CU departments, will be housed in one location. The team received a boost this year when Cech, 1989 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, rejoined CU's faculty in spring 2009 to head up the initiative.

The CU-Boulder department of chemical and biological engineering, ranked in the top 10 public graduate programs in the United States, has a record of groundbreaking work in the development of new biomaterials, advancements in pharmaceutical biotechnology and innovations in biorefining and biofuels.

The biochemistry faculty are highly recognized for their research on RNA structure and function, nucleic acid chemistry and other specialties. The division includes a Nobel laureate, two National Academy members, two Howard Hughes Medical Investigators and two National Medal of Science winners.

The building's design concept incorporates "research neighborhoods" -- made up of efficient and flexible research labs, support spaces and collaboration spaces -- all connected via a "main street" corridor. HDR Architects, in association with Robert A. M. Stern Architects, designed the building.

Some of the key challenges in emerging fields such as molecular biotechnology require collaborative work across numerous academic disciplines. The building's layout and mission aims to break down barriers between departments and colleges and promote interdisciplinary connections -- a key strategic goal of CU-Boulder.

"The building brings together under one roof the brightest minds in the many disciplines of the biosciences to advance health and patient care in unprecedented ways," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. "This greatly complements the goal of our Flagship 2030 strategic plan of achieving seamless interdisciplinary research for the benefit of all citizens."

The building also will be an anchor for CU-Boulder's East Campus, a parcel of land slated for future university expansion northwest of Colorado Avenue and the Foothills Parkway.

The groundbreaking will take place south of Potts Field on the East Campus. From Foothills Parkway, turn west on Colorado Avenue and then right on Innovation Drive. Parking will be available adjacent to Potts Field.

More information on the Caruthers Biotechnology Building and the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology is available at