MUSC dedicates new bioengineering and drug discovery hubs

Heather Woolwine

Oct. 21, 2011

MUSC dedicates new bioengineering and drug discovery hubs

James E. Clyburn Research Center marks new era in biomedical research

CHARLESTON -- Federal, state and local dignitaries helped usher in a new chapter in South Carolina's growing biomedical research effort with the dedication of a laboratory complex designed to speed up cures and treatments for major diseases.

The complex, housing 78 labs and other facilities, signifies a break from the traditional research approach by combining scientists from different fields and allowing them to communicate more effectively. The two buildings one for bioengineering and one for drug discovery are interconnected, as are the labs within them. By combining experts from different disciplines in modern facilities with easier access, MUSC hopes to take the science as quickly as possible from the lab to the patient's bedside with improved treatments, medications and medical devices. Cancer, Alzheimer's disease and heart disorders are just some of the medical problems scientists will study in the new complex.

The complex was named after U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) for his long-standing efforts to correct health disparities in South Carolina and for his support of biomedical research.

Within the center, investigators from numerous MUSC departments share space with scientists, faculty and students from Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. Large auditoria and teleconferencing technologies allow face-to-face interaction with investigators around the world. The first international symposium will be held there within a month, bringing together leading heart researchers from across the world.

The center also will promote more partnerships with private industry to help speed up technology transfer and intellectual property commercialization. It will house at least eight of the state-supported SmartState Center of Economic Excellence Endowed Chairs who were recruited to help drive the knowledge-based economy of the state. The state also played a critical role in funding the construction of the buildings, with half of the cost paid through the Research University Infrastructure Act passed by the S. C. General Assembly in 2004. The result is a place where some of the state's best minds in medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, and genetics can accelerate the rate at which they can collect, interpret and apply new information.

"The discoveries coming out of these buildings will enable us to diagnose problems earlier and treat them more effectively, and also will help us to address health disparities that exist in our state. Our hope is that this research center will result in a stronger and more vibrant biomedical community in Charleston and South Carolina," said MUSC President Ray Greenberg. "If you want to know what our strategic plan for addressing the health needs of this state looks like, just take a look at what will be happening in these two buildings."

Breeding discovery and economic growth

In addition to leveraging the state's investment in research and education, the center also puts the state in a stronger position to recruit more world-class researchers through the SmartState Centers of Economic Excellence Endowed Chairs program and other initiatives. In this same vein, statewide collaboration across all three research institutions and current endowed chairs is key in pushing health discoveries forward. For example, Clemson University President James F. Barker said that the university has worked in biomaterials since the 1960s. However, faculty quickly determined that although there was a good understanding of biomaterials, they lacked such an understanding of medicine or surgery. Those strengths were found at MUSC and other partners. When combined, there exists a real opportunity to make a difference in the quality of life of the people of our state, Barker said. "This partnership has been building for some time, and I'm delighted to see the program have a home at the James E. Clyburn Research Center at MUSC," he said. "This facility will become home to some amazing advances in technology."

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides echoed Barker's comments: "Congressman Jim Clyburn's advocacy for the health and well being of the citizens of this state is well known. The research and clinical care that will take place here, through the collaboration of scientists and health care professionals from our state's three research universities, will make a lasting impact on this state and be a fitting legacy for a leader who has devoted his career to improving the lives of South Carolinians."

Eliminating health disparities

Congressman James E. Clyburn represents a congressional district home to some of the nation's highest rates of stroke, diabetes and prostate cancer deaths. His district also has fewer than half the number of physicians per 1,000 people than the rest of the state. Technologies that come out of these buildings will fundamentally change how care is delivered, and work to remove geography and diminish economics as barriers to state-of-the-art care.

"I am deeply honored to have my name associated with the Medical University of South Carolina and the great work that will take place in these research facilities. My commitment to addressing inequities in our health care system has been a lifelong passion, and it is an important mission here at MUSC. This state-of-the-art research center is evidence of this university's commitment to improving and advancing the delivery of health care, and I am proud to be a part of it," Clyburn said.

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 11,000 employees, including 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.7 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit or