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OHSU Board approves expansion of Life Sciences Building

Expansion will add ‘vibration-free’ research space for the new OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine and infrastructure for a second, future wing

The Oregon Health & Science University Board on Tuesday approved additional research space for the OUS-OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building and a platform for eventually building a second OHSU wing on the building. The decision raises the current cost of the $160 million project to $190 million. All of the additional $30 million will be paid by OHSU. 

The Life Sciences Building will be the first building on OHSU’s Schnitzer Campus in South Waterfront. It is a collaborative project involving OHSU and the Oregon University System – primarily Portland State University. “The Life Sciences Building will be a clear example of the close partnership that exists between OHSU, Portland State and the other OUS institutions,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. “It is an effective way for us to work together to develop the needed workforce and the new knowledge that will improve Oregonians’ health and the economic vitality of our community. This will also be a symbol of the importance of philanthropy – this project is possible because of a generous, private gift.”

The additional 20,000 square feet of research space approved by the OHSU Board will be for the OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine. The center is directed by Joe Gray, a renowned cancer and genomic researcher recently recruited to OHSU from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Gray is known for, among other things, developing the FISH test that transformed how treatments are selected for breast cancer patients. He co-leads the Stand Up To Cancer initiative’s Breast Cancer Dream Team, serves as a key player in the Cancer Genome Atlas Project and is spearheading the use of computer models to predict how promising targeted therapies will work in attacking cancer cells.

The Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine will bring together a number of scientific disciplines to study how cancer cells grow. These disciplines include researchers at OHSU in the fields of cancer, neuroscience, infectious disease and cardiology. They also include the fields of physics, nanotechnology and quantitative analysis from investigators at Portland State University. The inter-disciplinary nature of the center, along with its need for highly specialized, “vibration-free” research space, made locating it in the basement of the Life Sciences Building an attractive proposition.

In addition, the board approved adding a platform for a second addition, which would be constructed later, when adequate funding has been found. Adding the platform and parking for the second building now will allow economies of scale which will save costs in the future, according to OHSU planners. The addition is still in the planning phases but it could include space to relocate the clinical facilities of the School of Dentistry as well as provide laboratory space that is expected to be needed as research at the university grows over the next five to seven years.

“As excited as we are about the Life Sciences Building,” said Dr. Robertson, “It’s really only the beginning for the Schnitzer Campus. Despite the recession, the continued growth of our research and education missions has made it imperative to continue to plan for ongoing growth to meet the needs of Oregonians. However, as has always been true for the Schnitzer Campus, we will not build until we identify necessary funding.”

The board’s approval is conditioned upon OHSU reaching an agreement with OUS concerning OHSU’s ownership and occupancy of the expanded project space and the second building platform.

The Life Sciences Building was made possible by an anonymous $40 million donation OHSU received to expand medical education. The Life Sciences Building will allow the OHSU School of Medicine to expand its class size from 120 to 160 students; the School of Dentistry from 75 to 90 and the Physician Assistant program from about 40 to 50. Medical and dental students will share the first two years of classroom education and physician assistants will share the first year.

The original $160 million for the Life Sciences Building will be financed by the $40 million in cash from the OHSU donation; $10 million from Tri-Met and the issuance of $110 million in bonds by the State of Oregon. OHSU will be responsible for $30 million of those bonds, in addition to providing the land, which is located at what will be a station for the light rail line to be built across the Willamette River.

Because of Tuesday’s board vote, OHSU will also provide $20 million for specialized research space for the spatial systems center and $10 million for parking and foundation infrastructure for the future addition, bringing OHSU’s total for the project to $100 million. OHSU will come back to the Board for approval of a bond sale for the additional $30 million.

Background on OUS Collaborative Life Science Building

The Life Sciences Building will be co-owned by OHSU and the Oregon University System. The approximately 400,000 square-foot-building (not counting the additional space approved by the OHSU Board) will be used for educational space, research space and retail/building support space in addition to 270 parking spaces. The $110 million in bonds to be issued by the State of Oregon are comprised of $50 million in Article-XI G bonds, to be serviced by the State of Oregon, and $60 million in Article-XI F-bonds for which OHSU and OUS will be responsible for payment. OHSU will provide $40 million in cash (from its anonymous donation), the land on which the building will sit, and an additional $30 million in new OHSU debt to pay for the expanded ~20,000 square feet of research space and parking.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

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