MSU plans ‘model biosciences corridor’ in Grand Rapids


The Grand Rapids-based MSU College of Human Medicine works to develop “exemplary physicians and scholars” and champions inclusive medicine. Photo via

More than 30 faculty and students from Michigan State University were in Grand Rapids on Thursday as part of the first phase in planning a new biomedical research facility downtown.

Urban planning

Faculty and students from MSU’s Land Policy Institute and School of Planning, Design and Construction will conduct research on several parcels of downtown real estate during the next several weeks.

The parcels previously housed the Grand Rapids Press headquarters.

MSU bought the 7.85 acres of property for $12 million in early 2012.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon was also in Grand Rapids today to officially launch the first phase of the planning.

MSU hopes to build the biomedical research facility by 2017.

In June, the MSU Board of Trustees authorized the administration to move forward with planning for development of the parcels, which include one parking lot next to the former Press building and four others on the north side of I-196, with two of them adjacent sites on the Grand River.

“Model biosciences corridor”

A new biomedical research facility in Grand Rapids is crucial to support the projected growth of MSU and its College of Human Medicine, according to an MSU announcement.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon” border=

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. Photo by Chris Pastotnik

“We were pleased to acquire the downtown properties last year to accommodate the demands of our growing medical research program,” Simon said. “We are excited as we take this next step with students, researchers and faculty engaging with local leaders and community partners to develop a model biosciences corridor in Grand Rapids.”

Scott Witter, head of MSU’s Land Policy Institute and its School of Planning, Design and Construction, said the multi-disciplinary research team has a complex task ahead, as they begin with a visit to the Secchia Center, the College of Human Medicine’s headquarters. It is near the former Press properties.

MSU said the student-and-faculty team will focus on creating a vision for MSU and Grand Rapids as a center for biomedical research, clinical study and education, in an attractive, sustainable and economically diverse community.

“Our team’s role is to look at the community and MSU properties and figure out how we can design a high class, model facility that satisfies researchers, administrators and community partners,” Witter said. “That includes looking at everything from sustainability to planning and zoning to technology.”

The research project will provide valuable hands-on experience to the MSU students in the School of Planning, Design and Construction programs.

In addition to facility planning, they will interview local leaders in Grand Rapids and look at social and cultural factors that will help recruit and retain world-class researchers for the new facility.

By the end of the year, a report on phase one will be delivered to the MSU Board of Trustees. Future phases of the project will include the development of funding sources and a philanthropy plan.

Vennie Gore, MSU vice president for Auxiliary Enterprises, is the project manager.

“If all things go well, we would have a building completed in the fall of 2017 — if all things go well,” Gore said.

He could give no estimate yet of the cost of the research facility.

Research focus

Since opening in 2010, the MSU College of Human Medicine Secchia Center has operated as a medical education building, without space designated for research laboratories.

MSU has recruited 15 principal investigators, funded by the National Institutes of Health, who are now working in Grand Rapids. They are using lab space leased by MSU from the Van Andel Institute and Grand Valley State University.

MSU’s expanding research profile in Grand Rapids will focus on Parkinson’s disease, cutaneous oncology and women’s reproductive health, including breast cancer.

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