UT-Baptist Research Park in the National Development Spotlight

Anyone driving down Union or Madison Avenues in the Memphis Medical District can’t help but notice the activity on the UT-Baptist Research Park site. Infrastructure is being developed, foundations are being poured and buildings are rising. The first two buildings under construction are the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Pharmacy and the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL). One of only 13 RBLs funded by National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the UTHSC RBL will be focused on research to develop new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to protect the general population from infectious diseases and bioterrorism. The new College of Pharmacy building will give the research campus a state-of-the-art building to provide educational and laboratory space for researchers to generate discoveries that lead to patents with commercial potential. The College of Pharmacy is at the forefront in the development of patents for the UTHSC.

What is not readily visible is the attention this research park is receiving from the most creative and renowned laboratory design firms from around the country. To meet its potential, the UT-Baptist Research Park must offer the most competitive, progressive and collaborative research environment possible. Scores of architectural firms have vied for a chance to work on this project, and the list has been narrowed from 22 to nine firms with impeccable credentials on projects in such bioscience research hotbeds as San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, DC/Baltimore and Raleigh-Durham’s Research Triangle Park.

Our development is truly unique. While most labs built in this country are for strict academic or education purposes, we are developing labs that will meet the needs of commercial clients – multi-tenant commercial clients – especially in some of our local industry strength areas, such as orthopedics, cancer, biopharmaceuticals and infectious disease. These clients will need not just research and development space, but access to shared equipment and advanced research methodologies that typically are cost-prohibitive for companies to purchase on their own. We are creating space that will encourage and enable an environment of collaboration, yet this does not mean two competitive companies will work together. The Memphis Bioworks® Foundation anticipates that competitors will welcome an environment that encourages sharing across academia, research, commercial markets and entrepreneurial ventures.

We are working with the designers to go beyond the typical research building and create a model that will provide the community with an asset not yet available in any other bioscience research center. As well as asking these firms to set a new standard in lab design, we are also evaluating them on their ability to raise awareness of what’s happening in Memphis among their clients, who are all potential tenants of the UT-Baptist Research Park. Memphis Bioworks wants to encourage bioscience companies to look at the opportunity to be part of this research park and a contributor to the development of the space and environment.

Keep watching as the bricks and mortar rise. But keep in mind that the bricks and mortar are just the beginning of the story for the research park, the bioscience community and Memphis.

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