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A New Kind Of Building For A New Kind Of Science: Biomedical Science Tower Three Opens Today On University Of Pittsburgh Campus

PITTSBURGH, October 6, 2005 — The first of some 50 research groups set to occupy the spacious laboratories inside the University of Pittsburgh’s Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3) started moving into the $205.5 million state-of-the-art research facility in recent weeks, but today marks the formal opening of what University officials describe as “a new research building for a new science.”

The 10-story structure, designed by the award-winning architectural firm Payette Associates, Inc., of Boston, was built by Pitt to stand as a national model for how modern laboratory space should promote interaction among scientists, foster more fruitful collaborations and be able to adapt to ever-changing research demands and priorities.

The building, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Darragh Street in Oakland, embodies the University’s vision that scientific discovery today and in the future requires this more innovative work environment. Biomedical science has become increasingly more complicated, and the University recognizes that the speed with which complexities of the human genome and protein structures are being revealed demands closer collaboration among researchers working in different disciplines and more highly specialized fields.

The BST3 offers 331,000 gross-square-feet of space specifically designed to stimulate such interactions. Moreover, its open and modular laboratory plan provides researchers with maximum flexibility for adapting to new avenues of research with more efficiency and less cost than traditional labs allow. Such versatility will help streamline the process of discovery, from identifying the underlying mechanisms that cause various diseases and conditions to developing strategies for treatment and prevention, and ultimately, to their delivery in the patient care setting.

By this time next year, the BST3 will house nearly 500 scientists, graduate students, technicians and support staff who will be conducting research in such areas as structural, computational and developmental biology; neuroscience; bioengineering; drug discovery and vaccine development. Half of this number will represent both newly created positions and researchers recruited from outside the region.

“The BST3 is a visible symbol of our University's standing as one of the world's leading centers for biomedical research, and it will enable our scientists to push forward with exciting work having the potential to significantly improve human health. Among national educational institutions, Pitt, with its affiliates, already is ranked seventh in National Institutes of Health funding. The BST3 should give a big boost to the already robust biotechnology sector of the state and local economies. However, the greatest beneficiaries will be future patients and those who care about them,” stated University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg.

“The research that will be conducted in the BST3 is revolutionary in its intent and design,” commented Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor, Health Sciences, and dean, School of Medicine. “At the core will be research focused on understanding the structure and function of genes and proteins – the root causes of virtually all human diseases and disorders. This knowledge will be critical to modern drug discovery, vaccine development and our general comprehension of the human condition. The BST3 is a facility like few others, and by populating it with the best minds in science and individuals who share a common commitment, we can make significant strides toward scientific discovery.”

The faculty and staff that comprise the School of Medicine’s departments of Computational Biology and Structural Biology are settling into their new research home. Other groups will be moved in stages, a process that will be completed in 2006.

In addition to computational and structural biology, other tenants will be: a contingent from the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition; research groups from the Department of Neurobiology; the Department of Neurology’s Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases; a newly established Drug Discovery Institute; the Center for Vaccine Research in Biodefense and Emerging Infections, a new University initiative, and a National Institutes of Health-funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratory; the Proteomics Core Laboratory; a developmental biology program; and investigators from the School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering who have secondary faculty appointments in the School of Medicine.

When fully occupied and completed, the BST3 will have the largest zebra fish colony in the world, with 10,000 tanks, which will enable study of the genetic causes of many human disorders; one of the few university-based drug discovery programs capable of high throughput screening of up to 100,000 molecular compounds; and one of the most sophisticated arrays of tools and equipment for structural biology research, including six nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, each weighing between 3 and 5 tons, for imaging biological structures. To accommodate this highly sensitive and specialized research equipment, novel engineering and architectural solutions have been incorporated into the building’s design and construction. A removable window system at street level and a permanent crane positioned on rails in the basement will allow for periodic replacement of equipment as technology advances.

The BST3 is one of the first research facilities to install a highly flexible “plug-and-play” laboratory bench system, a novel approach created by GPR Planners Collaborative Inc., a laboratory design firm located in Purchase, N.Y. Other more subtle design elements are found throughout the building. For example, to represent the many ways that mice have helped uncover some of the complexities of human biology, the building’s floor treatments are modeled after the linear sequence of the mouse genome; interestingly, 99 percent of the genes found in mice have counterparts in humans.

The $205.5 million in design, engineering and construction costs has been financed in part by $42.4 million in dedicated University funds; $18.8 million in foundation funds through the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse; $17.5 million from Commonwealth capital project funds annually allocated to the University; $10 million from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; $5 million each from the DSF Charitable Foundation and Scaife Family Foundation; $4.1 million from tobacco settlement funds allocated by the Commonwealth to support the University's research program; and $1.1 million in other Commonwealth grants specifically targeting this project. A $21.6 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is supporting the cost of constructing the specialized Regional Biocontainment Laboratory. The remaining $80 million is being funded through University-issued debt.

The University is engaged in an active fundraising effort to reduce the debt service associated with the building and is hopeful that the Commonwealth will provide additional funds toward that end. A private event is being held this evening that will acknowledge those individuals, foundations and government entities that have already provided their generous support so far.

Pittsburgh-based Mascaro/Hunt Joint Venture was the construction manager for the project. In addition to Payette Associates and GPR Planners Collaborative, other firms involved in designing and erecting the building were: Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers LLC, of Boston, the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers; structural engineers R. M. Gensert Associates of Pittsburgh, and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., of Waltham, Mass.; JSA Architecture Planning Engineering Interior Design, headquartered in Robinson Township, Pa., the local architect and civil, communications and security engineers; and the landscape architecture firm LandWorks, located in Middlebury, Vt.

The BST3 augments the University’s other research real estate, including the first Biomedical Science Tower, which opened in 1988, and the Biomedical Science Tower South, added in 1996.

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