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A new research centre will spawn scientific collaboration

Planners of the Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, an innovative new campus institution that will bring together specialists from at least half a dozen disciplines, have received the go-ahead to begin designing the building.

More than three-quarters of the $100 million in funding is in place, and there’s “a plan for the remainder,” according to James Friesen, chair of the Banting and Best department of medical research and a key player – along with Cecil Yip, vice-dean, research, in the Faculty of Medicine – in the drive to build the new centre.

That’s why, in early summer, a Board of Governors subcommittee okayed the release of $10 million for design work on the building, which will house at least 50 faculty members from departments as disparate as pharmacy and engineering, as well as their grad students and postdoctoral fellows. “It will be a very interesting place,” says Friesen. “No other institution will have the scope it will have. It will be one-stop shopping for collaborations that link the campus and the hospital medical research institutes.”

The centre will have five “platforms,” or areas of research, but the scientists in each will be encouraged to work with collaborators from other specialties. A pharmacist, for instance, might find herself working side by side with an engineer, a molecular biologist and a chemist. “We’ll try to mix them up, so that new ways of interacting can evolve,” says Friesen.

The researchers will be appointed to U of T departments in the conventional manner, he says, “but the research part of their lives will be in this both open and open-ended environment.” The five platforms will be functional genomics, protein structure, bioengineering and molecular engineering, animal models of disease, and functional imaging.
When it’s finished – Friesen hopes that will be within three or four years – the centre’s new home will rise just south of the current Medical Sciences Building.

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