Development of the North Campus Research Complex is coming to fruition faster than planned, according to University officials.

The University purchased the land for the 28-bulidng complex that spans 2.1 million square feet from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in 2009. According to a statement from University President Mary Sue Coleman, researchers are continuing to fill the facility as research initiatives in the health sciences continue to develop and grow.

“The acquisition of the former Pfizer complex is allowing the University of Michigan to more effectively form collaborative teams to tackle some of the big, important issues facing society today, such as health care reform,” Coleman said in the statement.

She added that the University is looking forward to the continuing developments of the facility moving forward.

“We are very excited about the progress so far with the North Campus Research Complex as well as the prospects for the future of that important facility,” Coleman said.

David Canter, executive director of NCRC, said researchers and groups have been moving into the complex at a surprisingly rapid pace, estimating that the facility is currently approximately one-third filled.

“We’ve been able to be quite successful, especially in the last 12 months, of getting groups to move in,” Canter said. “At the beginning of this month, if we take everybody in a lab-type role — faculty, researchers, start-up companies, private companies — we have about 300 people in labs, and we’ll expect, probably, to have another one to two hundred more move in the next six months.”

Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research, said that while the NCRC is ahead of schedule in occupying the complex, it is still in the process of developing the types of programs it will hold.

“You need new people, but you also need some new programs and that’s a little bit more complex,” Forrest said. “Programs involve figuring out the interrelatedness you want between the various activities, and that takes time.”

He added that the interdisciplinary nature of the program allows for various academic programs to work collaboratively in research endeavors.

“It provides a tremendous opportunity to bring groups from different disciplines together to solve large problems,” Forrest said. “If you get different mixes of people and disciplines, you find that you’re solving different problems, and if you’re solving different problems, you have the opportunity to expand the rest of your research while making a bigger impact.”

Forrest said one of the NCRC’s greatest accomplishments so far is the Michigan Venture Accelerator , a lab and office space that aids start-up businesses.

“For the first time, our faculty have first class lab facilities to start their companies,” Forrest said. “They have … all those things that make a venture successful.”

Both Canter and Forrest mentioned that researchers at the NCRC are currently working on Biointerfaces, a collaborative program among the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering disciplines that specializes in cutting time and costs for developing treatments of diseases.

The complex also plans to incorporate classrooms into its buildings to allow for increased student involvement. However, Canter said there are various ways for students to become involved beyond the classrooms.

“Obviously we already have a capacity and a capability of having graduate students in labs,” he said. “Education is not always a formal classroom setting within a research school.”

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