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Welcome to Discovery Park
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.—Purdue University officially opened two new buildings as part of its interdisciplinary Discovery Park research facilities with a dedication ceremony on Sept. 5, marking the completion of a major advance in the university’s emphasis on basic science and its historical strength in drug discovery. A dedication event headlined by Purdue President Mitch Daniels highlighted researchers, industry collaborators and university supporters of the $28.7-million Drug Discovery Facility and the $15.9-million Bindley Multidisciplinary Cancer Research Facility.
The three-story Drug Discovery Facility will house the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery, already among the preeminent drug discovery centers in the United States. The Center pursues multidisciplinary drug discovery and translational research and commercializes innovations for the marketplace in addition to providing first-hand educational opportunities to Purdue students. Dr. Philip Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, serves as the center’s director.
The Bindley Multidisciplinary Cancer Research Facility is a 29,000-sq.-ft., two-story expansion of the Bindley Bioscience Center. The expansion complements the biophysical and biomolecular analyses, conventional cell imaging and separation and high-throughput screening capabilities at Bindley and the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. Laboratories in the expanded facility will focus on cancer cell biology, therapeutic and medical device development, cell-based screening, medicinal chemistry and next- generation imaging. Richard Kuhn is the Gerald and Edna Mann Director of Bindley and a professor and head of Purdue’s department of biological sciences.
Discovery Park has become a multidisciplinary hub that encompasses faculty members and staff that were previously spread across departments in three separate colleges, which operated in multiple buildings with distinct labs and facilities.
“In this day and age, it’s difficult for any individual to be the sole repository of knowledge; everyone has strengths in different areas,” says Prof. Philip Low, director of the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery. “The new buildings help to consolidate our talented researchers into a central building where they are able to interact and freely flow from one lab to the next.”
The free flow of information between labs and researchers in Discovery Park is further facilitated by shared instrumentation and common meeting rooms where information and ideas are shared. The result is significant synergy and more rapid drug discovery and screening.
“Our rates of discovery are vastly accelerated,” says Dr. Alan Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and senior associate vice president for research at Purdue.
The new facilities come at the end of a successful fiscal year for Purdue, which announced its second-best year for external research funding in its history in 2014. Twenty-four startups based on Purdue intellectual property—a threefold increase over the previous year—highlight the year’s funding successes.
“In a time of reduced overall federal support, investment in drug discovery remains strong,” says Rebar. “Purdue also is well- situated to partner with the pharmaceutical industry and become a world leader in drug discovery.”
The facility positions Purdue to capitalize on the increasing trend in the pharmaceutical industry of outsourcing research and development to universities and biotechnology firms.
“Estimates show that it costs approximately $1.4 billion and takes 10 years to bring a new prescription drug to the market, and pharmaceutical companies want to be confident in a drug candidate before pursuing it,” says Rebar. “That means compounds already through early testing and validation at Purdue will be much more competitive.”
Earlier this year, Discovery Park surpassed $1 billion in total research funding and investments. The park includes more than 1,000 affiliated faculty members and 300 graduate students. Their work helped to generate $83.9 million in funded research in 2012-2013, which equates to 25 percent of Purdue’s entire annual research portfolio. The work done in Discovery Park has also assisted or seeded 65 new companies and yielded 40 strategic global partnerships, as well as facilitating 426 disclosures, patents and licenses/options on intellectual property. More than 5,000 students have participated in entrepreneurial activities since the inception of Discovery Park.
As Discovery Park grows, so too does the need for faculty and research staff. According to Low, the university is looking to attract “superstars” in the field who are results-oriented and driven to succeed.
“The expanded research capacity through the Drug Discovery Facility and its affiliation with other leading laboratories throughout Discovery Park such as the Bindley Bioscience Center and Birck Nanotechnology Center will be a magnet for attracting outstanding faculty members and top-tier students from across the nation and the world,” says Rebar.
A heavy point of emphasis in Purdue’s research programs is translating the novel drugs it investigates into human clinical trials.
“One of Purdue’s most important missions is to move its innovations to the public, where they can improve lives,” said Daniels in a media release about Discovery Park’s economic impact. “Purdue faculty, staff and students are some of the most creative and hardworking individuals in the world. Over the past 18 months, we made several policy changes to create a climate of entrepreneurship and deliberate innovation.”