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Rosalind Franklin University Breaks Ground on New Science Park

$50 Million Investment to Build State-of-the-art Research Center for Academic Medicine-life Science Industry Collaboration

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science celebrated the impending construction of its new Innovation and Research Park with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Sept. 8 attended by state and local officials, life science industry partners, and university faculty, alumni and supporters.

The research park, which will be built on the university’s campus in Lake County, home to the largest concentration of bioscience companies in the Midwest, will offer a collaborative environment for academic and industry scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs, with the goal of accelerating RFU’s nationally recognized research into treatment and prevention of disease. It will provide state-of-the-art laboratories and spaces for faculty and commercial startups and small- to mid-size national and international biotech firms.

“This new science park places innovative medical science very close to global pharmaceutical and medical device leaders and that proximity will accelerate the translation of new medical discoveries into improved therapy and diagnostics,” said RFU President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch. “It’s evidence of our university’s commitment to put our science to work improving health and well-being, especially among our local communities that carry unequal burdens of illness and disease.”

RFU investigators conduct biomedical research in 12 major areas, including cardiac resuscitation, cancer, drug discovery and development, cystic fibrosis, neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Our researchers are excited about the possibility of new collaborations with industry experts that can help translate their science into therapeutics to benefit patients at home and around the globe,” said Ronald Kaplan, PhD, RFU executive vice president for research. “This expansion of our research beyond our laboratories, into actual development, can help save lives, improve health care and help grow our local and regional economy.”

The expansion will consist of 100,000 square feet of state-of-the-art research, office and meeting space that will ultimately house 175 scientists, including investigators in industries collaborating with the university, which will occupy approximately two-thirds of the building. Remaining space will be leased to life science companies.

Job creation, job training programs and internships are also components of the vision for the park, which is expected to generate an estimated 500 direct new jobs. A study by Lake County Partners forecasts a total economic regional impact of $117 million per year.

“Lake County is already a favored location for life science activity and jobs and the development of the new Rosalind Franklin University science park will further enhance our cluster and create additional space for international life science companies to land in Illinois,” said Kevin Considine, Lake County Partners president and CEO.

The $50 million construction will be financed through a recent bond sale that generated in excess of $1 billion in interest, according to the Atlanta-based developer for the project, The University Financing Foundation (TUFF). Terms of the funding agreement also include a beneficial refinancing of existing debt and a long-term ground lease and master lease. TUFF has extensive experience in building science parks throughout the United States and assisting universities in financing and expanding their infrastructure.

“The Innovation and Research Park will help the university grow its impressive research capabilities, including its new company formation and medical entrepreneurship,” said TUFF President Kevin Byrne. “It will enhance collaboration between academic scientists and industry innovators and that’s a proven approach to speeding the translation of discoveries into life-saving treatments.”

RFU is working with the SmartHealth Activator, a Lake County-based incubator focused on the commercialization of biotechnology coming out of Midwest universities, to increase the number of new companies formed by RFU faculty entrepreneurs.

“There is extraordinary biotech being developed at RFU,” said Tom Denison, SmartHealth president. “We are passionate about facilitating success for strong teams intent on solving significant health problems. The university’s proximity to some of the nation’s top healthcare companies and the people who built them offers important access to elite mentors, experienced operators and investors.”

The science park is based in a public-private partnership that, in addition to RFU and TUFF, includes the City of North Chicago, Lake County, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“North Chicago has great expectations for this science park in both economic development impact and providing future careers for our students to aim for,” said North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham. “Rosalind Franklin University is a leader in our community in offering healthcare to the underserved and in mentoring and building academic pipelines for our students. We see the new science park as an extension of that commitment.”

Completion of the new building is expected in summer 2019.

Rosalind Franklin University announces construction of new Innovation and Research Park

Estimated economic impact on region $117 million annually

North Chicago, IL — (March 9, 2017) Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science today announced plans for a new Innovation and Research Park, providing state-of-the-art research labs and incubator space for faculty and commercial biotech startups. The expansion will also include space for national and international life science firms.

The university's Board of Trustees on Thursday approved the first phase of development for the science park, which includes the construction, under a public/private partnership, of a four-story, 100,000 square-foot addition to the north side of the university campus at 3333 Green Bay Road. The building will also include offices, meeting rooms for small and large groups, and common areas on the first floor. Long-term plans envision the possible addition of two more buildings. Groundbreaking is expected in September 2017, with occupancy by summer 2019.

"The science park is an investment in our research enterprise," said Ronald Kaplan, PhD, a protein biochemist and RFU executive vice president for research. "As we accelerate the development of our research and related intellectual property, we're also creating the innovation epicenter for Chicagoland's bioscience cluster."

Dr. Kaplan said that efforts to commercialize basic science and translational discoveries have been limited in the northern Illinois region by the lack of a centralized bio-startup ecosystem.

The park will spur collaboration among academic and industry scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the goal of faster translation of RFU's nationally recognized research into treatments for conditions that cause suffering for millions of people and their families, including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, cancer and mental illness.

"The Innovation and Research Park is a commitment to a healthier future," said RFU President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch, a neurologist and former National Institutes of Health funded investigator in stroke and headache. "Biomedical research and development can improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The research park will promote very intentional interdisciplinary collaboration that might yield new answers to help people live longer, healthier lives."

RFU is working with not-for-profit TUFF, The University Financing Foundation, in the development and financing of the $50 million project. TUFF has built and managed successful science parks across the nation, including at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Delaware, Louisiana State University and Florida Institute of Technology.

"We're helping RFU expand its impressive research capabilities in a region noted for significant pharmaceutical and medical device company activity," said TUFF President Kevin Byrne. "Creating a space that enhances interactions and partnerships between the university and these innovative industries will help speed the translation of discovery into better health and life-saving treatments."

In its initial phase, the park will house up to 175 researchers focused principally on neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and muscular dystrophy. Investigations will also focus on genetic diseases, inflammation, and proteomics — the large-scale study of proteins. The co-location of labs based on disease focus will create new synergies, enhance competitiveness for federal grant funding and venture capital, and draw interest from potential philanthropic partners.

The university is partnering with North Chicago-based SmartHealth Activator to facilitate the founding of biotech startups by RFU faculty. The first such company, NeuroLucent, was launched early last year by neuroscientist Associate Professor Beth Stutzmann, based on her study of target compounds that show promise in preventing the progression of Alzheimer's in its earliest stages.

Lake County has the highest concentration of bioscience companies in the Midwest, according to Tom Denison, president of SmartHealth.

"The ecosystem we're building today will benefit the community and the industry," Denison said. "By taking these extraordinary bioscience discoveries from the lab, we're also benefitting humankind."

The City of North Chicago and numerous elected officials have expressed support for the project.

"The park will be an important addition to our continuing efforts to bring economic development to North Chicago," said Mayor Leon Rockingham. "It won't just add jobs for scientists, but construction and related service jobs, in addition to entry level jobs and internships for local students and college graduates."

Non-profit Lake County Partners estimates that the first phase of the project will create an estimated 498 new jobs and a total economic regional impact of $117 million per year.

"The research park will be a catalyst for continued growth of Lake County's well-known life science cluster and that means more economic development," said Kevin Considine, Lake County Partners president and CEO. "This project will create jobs, including high-value research jobs. It will improve the health of our local and regional economy and ultimately, the health of our people."

About Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

A national leader in interprofessional healthcare education and biomedical and clinical research, Rosalind Franklin University brings together more than 30 graduate health professions and science programs on a single campus, allowing for a wealth of team-based, interdisciplinary learning and practice opportunities. RFU includes the Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. More than 18,000 RFU degreed alumni are active throughout the United States and around the world. For more information, visit

About TUFF

The University Financing Foundation (TUFF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) operating foundation that assists institutions of education and research in the planning, development, and financing of facilities and equipment at below-market costs.

About SmartHealth

SmartHealth Activator provides biotech startups access to customers, elite mentors, experienced operators, investors, seed funding and co-working space.