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New Medical Biosciences Building brings experts together to accelerate research

Alzheimer's disease researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the Medical Biosciences Building opening December 1, while scientist Harry Orr, Ph.D., and Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., look on. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

A chat between colleagues in the hallway can spark the beginnings of a major medical discovery. For researchers at the University of Minnesota whose offices may be scattered across campus‚ bouncing ideas off of one another in person just got easier.

In December, the University opened a $79.3 million, 115‚000-plus-square-foot Medical Biosciences Building to house scientists who are studying Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases as well as the immune system.

Located behind the TCF Bank Stadium, the building is part of the University’s Biomedical Discovery District—the result of a $292 million funding program approved by the 2008 Minnesota Legislature—and will house 210 researchers, including 25 principal investigators.

It is home to world-leading research programs in Alzheimer’s disease, ataxia, and other neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy‚ Parkinson’s disease‚ ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), as well as immunology. And it is linked by a skyway to the University’s internationally renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research.

Harry Orr, Ph.D., a lead ataxia researcher and director of the University’s Institute for Translational Neuroscience, says that the new building will strengthen recruiting and collaboration. “There’s a lot of overlap with the pathways in immunology and neurosciences. We talked about joint research over the years, but now we’re in the same building,” he says. “I want to find a treatment for ataxia in the next 10 years. Given that goal, I can’t think of a better place to be.”

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