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Rosalind Franklin University Awarded $2 Million in State Wet Lab Capital Funds

Rosalind Franklin University’s Innovation and Research Park took another step forward on Oct. 14 when the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced a $2 million matching grant that will allow the university to complete buildout of the facility’s industry space.

The grant is part of the state’s Wet Lab Capital program, which leverages Rebuild Illinois dollars to fund advancements in research and medicine, according to DCEO officials. RFU Executive Vice President for Research Ronald Kaplan, PhD, said the program and the IRP address “an acute shortage of wet lab space” critical for research and development.

“This funding will allow us to develop and open state-of-the art wet lab space for collaboration with industry partners,” Dr. Kaplan added. “It will also benefit Lake County communities as more biotech companies settle and expand in the region, creating new jobs, internships and training programs.”

RFU President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM, said the funds — paired with $2 million from RFU — will help the university accelerate recruitment from among many life-science companies seeking move-in ready space.

“Partnering with the state of Illinois is essential to driving healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship,” Dr. Rheault added. “Working across sectors in public/private partnership, we’re building a research enterprise that will benefit the health and well-being of communities for generations to come.”

Located on the north side of the RFU campus, the $50 million IRP opened in early 2020. It is designed to foster collaboration between academic and industry scientists around a shared goal of accelerating the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics. Currently, two-thirds of the building’s 100,000 square-feet of laboratory and office space are dedicated to RFU scientists, many of whom are working on research projects funded by sources that include the National Institutes of Health. The remaining space in the building is intended to house industry collaborators who intersect with the university’s mission and enhance the potential for advancement in bioscience research.

In announcing the grant at a ceremony in Chicago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the IRP one of “eight impressive new projects that will help pave the way to additional breakthroughs in research, and that will boost opportunities for more residents to work in the fast-growing life sciences sector in Illinois.”

“As home to one of the nation’s top research hubs, hospitals and an innovative startup community, Illinois has always been a leader in the life sciences sector — and we know how critically important these institutions are as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” Pritzker said. “However, additional investments are needed to keep Illinois and the companies doing business here competitive for the future.”

Other recipients in the program include Back of the Yards Algae Sciences in Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, NuMat Technologies in Skokie, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign.

DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia described the grants as “important investments in 21st-century infrastructure” that will help Illinois remain competitive in the biotech industry.

“Innovation in life sciences continues to play a key role in the health of our communities as well as our economy, and the investments we’re making today will build capacity to support new advancements in biotech, medicine and other life-saving R&D,” Garcia said.

The most recent company to join the IRP is SHIELD Illinois, which is processing saliva-based COVID-19 tests for school districts in northeastern Illinois. The park secured its first tenant last fall through a license agreement with Inspirotec, Inc., which offers airborne allergen detection to consumers, physicians, industrial hygienists and indoor air quality professionals.

Posted October 14, 2021
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