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2010-07-26

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'U' officials show off never-before publicly seen areas of NCRC

Courtesy of Kyle Swanson
NCRC Director David Canter explains the open layout of laboratories in the NCRC, telling reporters the facility allows for greater collaboration and scalability. Buy this photo

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published July 21, 2010

In a rare tour of the North Campus Research Complex yesterday, University officials showcased areas of the University’s new interdisciplinary research hub never before seen by the public.

Courtesy of Kyle Swanson
A $32 million medical manufacturing machine, never before seen by members of the public, was a highlight of the NCRC tour.
Courtesy of Kyle Swanson
Wednesday's NCRC tour also included a stop on the set of The Double, where an NCRC conference room was staged as a CIA videoconferencing center.

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The tour, led by David Canter, who officially started his new post as the NCRC director on Monday, and Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, revealed the complex’s former manufacturing facilities which have never before been open to members of the public and also highlighted collaborative laboratories, offices and meeting spaces in the facility.

While touring the complex’s former 250,000-square-foot medication manufacturing building, Canter drew attention to a machining area in the building formerly used by Pfizer to produce drugs for clinical trials. Canter described the machines, which were decommissioned before Pfizer left the facility, as a tool to “scale up manufacturing” and told reporters the machines alone cost $32 million.

The tour was part of a day-long event in which reporters traveled from Wayne State University, where officials provided a tour of the school’s Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems laboratories, to the NCRC and finally on to Michigan State University’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

The University closed on its purchase of the $108 million former Pfizer complex last June after initially announcing in December 2008 it planned to purchase the facility. The complex consists of 173.5 acres of land with 28 buildings, comprised of 1.98 million square feet of offices, laboratories and common areas.

Before starting to the tour, Pescovitz told reporters at the event that the University’s purchase of the NCRC was one of the primary reasons she chose to come to the University.

“I joined the University of Michigan just a little over a year ago, in May of 2009, and I have to tell you that one of the reasons I came is because of what you see in front of you here, this complex,” Pescovitz said while motioning to a scaled model of the facility.

Pescovitz emphasized that the University’s new facility will allow for collaborative, interdisciplinary research that was not previously possible in the current facilities on campus.

“We’re really excited about the types of research programs that will be brought in here,” she said. “We’re going to take advantage of the fact that the space is wide-open.”

While on the tour, Canter explained that only less than 10 percent of the facility is currently occupied. However, he said that once the building is at full capacity it could hold offices and lab space for 3,000 to 3,500 employees.

Canter said the University employees already in the facility are primarily research support like the Institutional Review Board, which Kara Gavin, the University of Michigan Health System spokeswoman, added was the first office to move into the NCRC.

No researchers have moved into lab space yet, Canter said. However, Canter said he hopes researchers in the core groups of the NCRC’s research clusters will begin to move into the labs within the next 12 months.

University officials announced last month that the initial core research clusters to be located at the NCRC would focus on functional, molecular and structural imaging, health care services and biointerfaces — the interface between biomaterial and other materials.

Lee Doyle, the director of the University’s film office, was also on hand for the beginning of the NCRC tour, telling reporters the NCRC has been a popular location for filming on campus.

Doyle led participants through the set of “The Double,” a movie starring Martin Sheen and Richard Gere that is currently filming at the NCRC. Doyle said the portion of the NCRC currently being used for the filming is being staged as CIA headquarters, though it was set up as FBI headquarters last week.

Use of the NCRC for filmmaking is consistent with the URC’s joint research mission, University officials said today, as it highlights the Universities’ Creative Film Alliance, which is focused on growing the state’s film industry.