FACT SHEET: Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building

Published: April 25, 2012

The Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building is a 336,800-square-foot research and teaching facility at the University of Colorado Boulder. The building is located at 3415 Colorado Ave. on CU-Boulder’s East Campus and was designed to facilitate collaborations between scientists and students from multiple disciplines to address critical challenges in the biosciences through collaborative research and teaching.

The overall design concept of the building consists of “research neighborhoods” made up of efficient and flexible research laboratories and areas for associated laboratory support. A “main street” corridor through the facility is intended to help foster interaction and collaboration. The new facility is also expected to stimulate new jobs in Colorado’s biotechnology industry.

The building will increase collaboration between the three units sharing the new facility -- the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Division of Biochemistry and the University of Colorado Biofrontiers Institute.

The Biofrontiers Institute is an expansion of the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, which began in 2003.  The institute is directed by CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Tom Cech.  Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Sidney Altman of Yale University for his discovery at CU-Boulder that RNA in living cells is not only a molecule of heredity, but also can function as a catalyst. CU-Boulder Professor Leslie Leinwand, former chair of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department, is the chief scientific officer of the institute.

The Biofrontiers Institute works closely with CU’s Leeds School of Business, including the Robert H. and Beverly A. Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.  The advisory board of the Biofrontiers Institute includes some of the institute’s major donors and executive officers of successful biotechnology companies -- some of which were spun off from CU -- as well as expert faculty from places like Stanford University, Princeton University and Columbia University.

Colorado’s bioscience industry generates more than $400 million in state taxes annually and supports some 36,000 employees at more than 375 companies, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The new biotechnology building is on track to receive a LEED Platinum rating from the United States Green Building Council.  LEED certification is a U.S. benchmark for sustainable building design, construction, operation and maintenance. The building’s mechanical and electrical systems, in particular, incorporate significant energy saving and energy recovery models.

The Biofrontiers Institute received a $15 million grant toward ongoing construction of the building in 2010 through the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The ARRA funding originated from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.

More than 600 jobs were created during the construction phase of the biotechnology building. The Biofrontiers Institute is continuing to hire new faculty, support staff and administrative staff. The building will host more than 60 faculty members and more than 500 researchers and support staff.

Faculty, staff and students in the new facility will tackle a variety of health issues ranging from cancer, aging and cardiovascular disease to inherited diseases, vaccine development and tissue engineering. They also will tackle pressing energy issues ranging from the development of new biofuels to the development of sophisticated membrane materials to capture carbon dioxide for various uses.

CU-Boulder will continue to collaborate with faculty and students at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.  The modern equipment in the facility also will give biotech companies a chance to collaborate with CU faculty and students and to use powerful biochemical, genetic and pharmacological instruments to better understand biochemical processes and further drug design.

The building was named after Jennie Smoly Caruthers, the late wife of CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Marvin Caruthers of the chemistry and biochemistry department. Jennie Smoly Caruthers was an adjunct professor in CU-Boulder’s chemistry and biochemistry department, a researcher in the MCD biology department and a biotechnology patent expert.

The design and construction of the new facility involved Robert A.M. Stern Architects in association with HDR Architects Inc. as well as general contractor JE Dunn Rocky Mountain Inc. 

A total of 975,000 bricks were used on the exterior of the building, as were 10,000 pieces of cut limestone.  There are 44 miles of piping throughout the building, which has four wings, and 3,400 pieces of glass were used during window construction. The ductwork in the building alone weighs about 338 tons. The building’s labs are modular and can be changed to accommodate the evolving needs of scientists and students.