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The Wistar Institute, a cancer research center on 36th and Spruce streets, broke ground on its new home on Friday. The new seven-story tower — slated to be completed in 2014 — will boast a glass atrium and open laboratory space.

Credit: Alexandra Fleischman , Alexandra Fleischman

Quad residents will soon enjoy a futuristic view thanks to the Wistar Institute’s $100 million new building on 36th and Spruce streets.

The building, which will house the 119-year-old cancer research institute — the nation’s oldest independent biomedical research center ­— broke ground Friday. The seven-story glass and steel structure is due to arrive on Penn’s campus in 2014.

Wistar staff, architects and engineers from Ballinger and construction workers from L. F. Driscoll gathered indoors to watch the suited representatives from the Institute turn dirt over.

President and CEO Russel Kaufman said the groundbreaking and construction represent Wistar’s movement into a new phase that will literally build off of the history of the company.

“[We are] building a new building right in the middle of where it all started,” Kaufman said.

The current Wistar building, located on the same site across from the Quad, has been home to innovative cancer and vaccination research, among other scientific projects.

Kaufman estimates that a single vaccine developed by Wistar may have saved Philadelphia millions of dollars each year by preventing childhood illness. “The power of research and what it does … has a multiplier effect,” Kaufman said.

As the building is integrated on University land, the independent institute is aware of its connection with Penn and University City.

“We are a part of a community,” Kaufman said, adding that their relationship with Penn was critical in creating the new building.

Along with the University, Wistar has received help from Philadelphia in the form of an $18 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The new building will incorporate the original architecture while creating an “environment that will inspire and spark … creativity,” Kaufman added.

Robert Fox, chairman of the “Building Wistar, Changing the World” campaign, is excited about the new project.

Fox said being a part of Wistar has been always been exciting ­but today “it’s great to be part of Wistar.”

A representative for Mayor Michael Nutter, Alan Greenberger — Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development — was enthusiastic as well.

“This is a great thing for Wistar, this is a great thing for Philadelphia and truly this is a great thing for the nation,” Greenberger said.

Other city representatives, such as Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, expressed hope for the future of Wistar and scientific research.

“In 2014 we’re going to have a new skyline in University City,” Kaufman added.

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