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Week of February 25, 2013

2,000th person moves to U-M’s new research campus

Less than three years after the first person moved in, U-M has transformed a vacant former pharmaceutical company campus into a vibrant hub for research — an achievement marked this week with the move of the 2,000th person to the site.

Last week, a former Harvard University researcher and his team unpacked their laboratory equipment and set up experiments in their new home at the North Campus Research Complex.

They’re the latest in a series of top-level recruitments U-M has been able to make since its 2009 purchase of the site, which includes 2 million square feet of space across 28 buildings and 173 acres of land.

“How fortuitous and fortunate that the 2000th person to move to the NCRC is a faculty recruit from another great institution,” says NCRC Executive Director David Canter. “Mixing together biologists and engineers, university research and commercial companies, and established faculty and new blood is the very essence of the NCRC’s mission.”

The newly recruited team is led by Zhong Wang, a stem cell and epigenetics researcher specializing in heart cells. He’s joining the Medical School’s Department of Cardiac Surgery, and will work with the many other Cardiovascular Research Center members based at NCRC.

In addition to heart disease, researchers at NCRC focus on cancer, health policy, emergency medicine, bioinformatics and the intersection of engineering and medicine. The NCRC population also includes hundreds of staff whose work supports U-M research, and employees of small companies that have spun out of U-M research.

U-M has invested in the creation of 10 shared scientific facilities at NCRC, such as DNA sequencing and advanced microscopes.

A cafeteria, art exhibits, conference facilities, updated information technology, exercise facilities, a child care center and even blood drives make the campus — once seen as a remote outpost by those on U-M’s main campus — a true community.

Also this month, dozens of researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s Center for Clinical Management Research moved to NCRC, to work more closely with colleagues in the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation. The institute’s first director, Dr. John Ayanian, was recruited from Harvard last fall. IHPI includes 411 researchers from U-M and partner entities in the region, many of them based at NCRC.

“At a time when many academic centers are scaling back their efforts to bring talented new research faculty and teams on board, we have made a commitment to continue to push for better understanding of health and disease by bolstering our biomedical research programs, and strengthening the support we give researchers,” says Dr. James O. Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School. He cites other recent recruits based at NCRC — such as researchers who study cellular changes that occur during medical emergencies, and translational oncologists seeking new cancer options.

“Our ability to establish a collaborative research environment at NCRC that crosses traditional disciplinary and school boundaries, at a lower cost and more rapid pace than building new facilities, has made it possible to offer new recruits space that is ready for their arrival,” Woolliscroft adds.

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