Bridging the gap between basic science and clinical care, the Translational Research Center, set to open next spring, will provide a “physical manifestation of our dedication” to interdisciplinary research, according to Glen Gaulton, executive vice dean and chief scientific officer of the School of Medicine.

Earlier this year, Penn Med was awarded $13 million from the National Institutes of Health as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant will offer additional laboratory space in the $370 million project. The project’s funding came from a combination of grants, gifts and support from the health system, according to Penn Med Chief of Staff Susan Phillips.

Gaulton, along with Penn Med Dean Arthur Rubenstein, began the strategic planning process in 2001 and developed the concept for the center the following year. The idea was brought forth to trustees who formally approved the idea between 2005 and 2006.

The Translational Research Center is the first project in Penn’s history to integrate hands-on research laboratories with patient-care facilities, providing a unique mix of basic scientific research and clinical application, Gaulton said.

The center will occupy five floors and share a building with the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, at 3400 Civic Center Blvd.

“It’s going to be interwoven in the architectural fabric of our most modern facility for patient care, and that’s a real metaphor for institutional commitment to translational research,” Director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics Garret FitzGerald said.

A particular emphasis of the center is to integrate diverse departments and areas of study that would otherwise be dispersed throughout various buildings. These include both basic scientific departments like Cell and Developmental Biology and Pharmacology, as well as disease-related institutions geared towards diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other areas of study.

FitzGerald said students, too, can take advantage of the facility as a “beacon” to “see medicine and science unrestrained by conventional barriers.” Students’ focus and training, he noted, should be in “the future, not the past, not even the present,” an idea reinforced by the “forward-looking” center.

Gaulton finds the center to be a “true University building and project,” despite having direct association with the Medical School, as it offers additional research space and opportunities for students, faculties and staff across Penn’s schools.

“More than anything else, what this building does is it develops inspiration for the institution, and it shows in a tangible way that the leadership of the institutions … are committed to excellence at all levels,” Gaulton said. “That’s what we want more than anything — to continually improve what we do.”

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