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MUSC ready to begin new construction

by Jill Coley
Of The Post and Courier
The expanding Medical University of South Carolina soon will open a third construction site along President Street.
The S.C. Bioengineering Center at MUSC will corral experts in biomedical engineering, a field that could develop such futuristic treatments as growing replacement organs or regenerating neural tissue.
“This gives the research community another dimension in South Carolina,” said Richard Swaja, director of the S.C. Bioengineering Alliance.

Martine LaBerge, professor and chair of bioengineering at Clemson University, said the joint project was initiated because of a lack of space. In 2003, a relationship was forged between the two to attract millions of dollars in biomedical engineering research grants.
MUSC has requested approval from Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review to begin construction of the four-story, 100,000-square-foot building that will be the third in a series of buildings to go up on or near President Street.
A 120,000-square-foot dental building already under construction is slated for completion August 2009. The dental building faces Bee Street between President Street and Ashley Avenue.
The second in the series is a 114,000-square-foot drug discovery building that will comprise laboratory and biotech start-up space and is scheduled for completion by August 2010.
The bioengineering building should cost approximately $55 million and is expected to open its doors by late 2010, Swaja said. The drug discovery and bioengineering buildings will be linked on the first and second floors.
Housed in the bioengineering building will be the offices of the S.C. Bioengineering Alliance, a collaboration of MUSC, Clemson and University of South Carolina, which was founded in the mid-1980s.
“The philosophy of it is collaborative,” LaBerge said.
Under one roof, academic, clinical, business and government resources will be gathered to focus on developing therapies for commercial sale. Space will be included for an incubator to house investors who want to start development.
About 36 wet lab areas and office space for 36 investigators will be on the top three floors. The first floor will comprise dry labs for computer-based research and conference space that can hold up to 600 people, Swaja said.
The center will have a strong focus on stem cells, Swaja said. Stem-cell research has been controversial in the U.S. because many people associate stem cells with embryonic stem cells, which are derived, as their name suggests, from embryos. MUSC adheres to the federal government’s directives regarding stem-cell research. Another area of interest will be biomaterials, or prosthetics, he said.
“This building is a reflection of the progressive thinking going on around the state that bridges disciplines,” Swaja said.
Editor’s note: The article ran Sept. 9 in the Post and Courier and is reprinted with permission.

Friday, Sept. 12, 2008
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