Expansion of UW Medicine biomedical research continues with South Lake Union Phase III construction

By Katerine Long (Seattle Times)

Ground was broken Wednesday on the first building in the third phase, which will house more than 400 researchers. The third phase will eventually include up to three buildings totaling nearly 542,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, housing more than 1,400 UW workers.

The new labs being built in South Lake Union are much larger than most of the labs on the main campus, providing space for researchers working across different disciplines to collaborate on projects, said Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine.

The UW has become a national leader in creating labs that support researchers working across a variety of disciplines, and "the physical facility does make a difference," he said.

The UW receives more money from the National Institutes of Health for biomedical research than any other public institution in the nation — about $900 million last year, Ramsey said. The third phase of South Lake Union is expected to help the UW win an additional $100 million from research grants.

The project is on a block bordered by Mercer and Republican streets, and Dexter and Eighth avenues north. The third phase will take about 10 years to complete.

The buildings are not being constructed with tax money; the land is owned by Vulcan Real Estate, and the construction is being financed by the National Development Council, the nation's oldest nonprofit economic- and community-development organization.

UW Medicine will lease the new building with some of the money it receives from research grants. In addition, the school has a goal of raising $50 million in private donations to buy special equipment for the new labs, Ramsey said. It already has received a $15 million anonymous donation.

Researchers at the new South Lake Union facilities will work in vision sciences, immunology, kidney research, rheumatology and infectious diseases. Already in the complex, there are labs that work on microbiology, biomarkers, biologic imaging, cancer vaccines, heart regeneration, inflammation and proteomics, the study of proteins.

Ramsey said the work UW researchers are doing is geared to finding cures for major diseases. "I firmly believe this is the most exciting time in history for biomedical research," Ramsey said. "Over the next 10 to 20 years, we'll see the development of cures in diseases we currently cannot cure."

The UW has moved into the South Lake Union neighborhood because there's no additional research space available at the school's main campus. Most of the existing labs in the Montlake campus are small, he said.

All three phases of the South Lake Union project have been financed by the National Development Council. The three phases represent an investment of $360 million in new research facilities.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com

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