Rice University
Rice Magazine| The Magazine of Rice University | No. 3 | 2009
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Building for Breakthroughs

For years, Rice University has explored the frontiers of research and education. Now, it has started exploring another type of boundary entirely — the physical seam between the university and other Texas Medical Center institutions.

At the heart of this quest is the newly opened BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC). The building, meant to serve as a hub for collaboration between researchers at Rice and other Texas Medical Center (TMC) institutions, is located at the corner of Main Street and University Boulevard — about a four-minute walk from medical powerhouses like Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“Within this region around the TMC and Rice, and reaching out a little bit farther to the University of Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, we have all of the capabilities necessary to make very important advances in the biosciences,” said Rice Provost Eugene Levy. “Still, in order to capitalize on these complementary competencies, we need to bring together a variety of institutions to produce the specialized capabilities that none of the institutions have alone. That’s really the underlying idea behind the BRC.”

Rice faculty members have been transferring their laboratories and offices to the new building since early July, and the entire Department of Bioengineering will soon call the BRC home, along with several members of the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. The Gulf Coast Consortia, an organization formed to help build interdisciplinary collaborative research teams and training programs in the biological sciences, also is now headquartered in the BRC, and in July, Texas Children’s Hospital became the first TMC institution to lease space in the building. Talks are ongoing with several other TMC institutions that have expressed interest in leasing space.

Conceptualized and built by Rice, the 477,000-square-foot BRC is equipped for cutting-edge laboratory, theoretical and computational investigations and features eight floors of research labs, classrooms and auditoriums.

Conceptualized and built by Rice, the 477,000-square-foot BRC is equipped for cutting-edge laboratory, theoretical and computational investigations and features eight floors of research labs, classrooms and auditoriums. It is designed to eventually accommodate a visualization center and an entire floor dedicated to biomedical informatics. The building’s amenities also include a science marketplace that houses scientific resources shared by the entire BRC community and an urban plaza with 10,000 square feet of retail space for a restaurant and shops.

But while the building is full of thoughtful details, it’s what takes place inside that will truly help foster advances in research.

“I would like to see the BRC become a vanguard for showing how it is possible to bring the best basic science and the best clinical or applied science together for a smooth transfer of knowledge from ‘bench to practice,’ which is even broader than the ‘bench to bedside’ so often talked about,” said Mary “Cindy” Farach-Carson, Rice’s associate vice provost for research. “We live in the Bio Age, and the opportunities for integrating life sciences discoveries at Rice with world challenges are enormous.”