Rosalind Franklin University’s Innovation and Research Park Celebrates Ribbon Cutting on First Anniversary
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The $50 million Innovation and Research Park (IRP) on the campus of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFU) marked its first anniversary with a virtual opening ceremony on Jan. 28, featuring dignitaries and leaders from the government, bioscience industry and economic development sectors.
Dr. Wendy Rheault, RFU president and CEO, noted that the opening ceremony was originally planned for March 2020, but “the impact of COVID-19 on our campus, in our region and worldwide rendered that impossible.”
“Even though we are still dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19, we felt an appropriate celebration and recognition of our community and partners would be a testament to the resilience of science and importance of discovery at this particular point in history,” Dr. Rheault added. “This significant addition to Chicagoland’s research and bioscience community demonstrates our faith in scientific discovery and its direct impact on patient health.”
“The completion of Rosalind Franklin University’s Innovation and Research Park is the type of strategic investment that helps us reach the kind of future our state deserves,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “This project demonstrates that innovation is critical to our success as a state, and this past year in particular. We need more bold thinkers and more brave risk-takers to solve our toughest challenges. We need more entrepreneurs and innovators to continue generating new ideas and finding new opportunities.”
Pritzker also applauded Dr. Rheault and RFU Executive Vice President for Research Dr. Ronald Kaplan for “their continued leadership and for supporting science and innovation in our state.”
Of the 100,000 square feet in the IRP, two-thirds are allocated to RFU research labs and six disease-based centers, while the remaining third is available to healthcare industries and startups.
“We designed each of the four floors of the new building to contain both academic and industry laboratories, as well as shared ‘collision space’ to facilitate future conversation and collaboration between researchers and industry,” said Dr. Kaplan. “The placement of RFU discovery science in close proximity to cutting-edge pharmaceutical and medical-device science will provide ideal conditions to hasten the translation of our biomedical discoveries into therapeutics and diagnostics to improve people’s lives.”
“The new facility, and the center-based organization, has already had a large impact on the research environment by facilitating new collaborations among scientists and as an attractive factor in recruiting the best young scientists,” said Dr. Jeremy Amiel Rosenkranz, director of RFU’s Brain Science Institute. “This will be further enhanced, and we are very excited, by the arising opportunities to interact with industry partners as they arrive.”
The first tenant for the IRP, Inspirotec, Inc., was founded by former Abbott Labs senior scientist Dr. Julian Gordon who worked at King’s College in London in the same lab where RFU’s namesake, Dr. Rosalind Franklin, conducted her groundbreaking research on DNA in the early 1950s. Inspirotec is the only company providing airborne allergen detection either direct to the consumer or through physicians, industrial hygienists, indoor air quality professionals and home resale. It has developed a highly sensitive, patented technology for testing and measuring biological agents in the air, including viruses and specifically SARS-CoV-2. The device, AirAnswersTM, was launched in September 2020. Inspirotec plans to move into its new space in the IRP during April 2021.
The Innovation and Research Park was designed to accelerate RFU’s nationally recognized research into treatment and prevention of disease, and to support collaboration among academic and industry scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. The facility, including its Helix 51 incubator, is strategically located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, and provides state-of-the-art laboratories and spaces for faculty and commercial startups, along with small- to mid-size national and international biotech firms. Several new biomedical companies joined Helix 51 during the last quarter of 2020 including Covira Surgical (non-antibiotic anti-infectives), Voyant Diagnostics (COVID and other virus testing) and Quantitative Neural Analysis (tardive dyskinesia).