With approval to proceed with selecting an architect, Brown University has taken a critical first step toward realizing a long-held vision for a new integrated life sciences building in Providence’s Jewelry District neighborhood.
As envisioned, the facility would provide state-of-the-art laboratory space for researchers in biology, medicine, brain science, bioengineering, public health and other disciplines to work together on pressing health-related issues. A location in the Jewelry District would offer researchers the proximity to enable close collaboration with scientists and physicians at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the School of Public Health, the School of Engineering and the University’s affiliated hospital partners.
A vote by the Committee on Budget and Finance of the Corporation of Brown University, the University’s governing body, at its meeting in May authorized the selection process to identify an architect for a new building. This launches an extensive programming phase to assess factors ranging from space needs and site requirements to conceptual design and projected scale and scope, as well as estimated project costs and funding sources.
Brown President Christina H. Paxson noted that the goal of new life sciences space in the Jewelry District dates back to Building on Distinction, a 10-year strategic plan launched in 2014 to build on Brown’s excellence, and the BrownTogether comprehensive fundraising campaign commenced a year later to advance support for the plan’s priorities.
“By fostering interdisciplinary research in the biological and life sciences and biomedical engineering to address major societal burdens ranging from aging and associated diseases — cancer and brain disorders — to infectious diseases like malaria, Brown scientists, physicians and scholars are at the leading edge of work toward new discoveries and solutions that impact lives here in Rhode Island and across the globe,” Paxson said. “Our goal is to advance that positive impact even further. As we begin planning for a major new facility in Providence that will enable integration across fields of expertise, we look forward to innovative life sciences breakthroughs for generations to come.”
With the approval to select an architect, Brown will engage in a years-long process toward planning, locating, designing and building the facility. Architect selection itself is expected to take three to six months. And while a target timeline for the full project would emerge during the overall planning process, the University estimates construction completion in the range of four to five years.
As we begin planning for a major new facility in Providence that will enable integration across fields of expertise, we look forward to innovative life sciences breakthroughs for generations to come.
Broadening research, expanding possibilities
The approval to select an architect comes as Brown is simultaneously developing an operational plan to grow its overall research enterprise, building further on substantial forward momentum in research activity in recent years. Creating an integrated life sciences building is one instrumental priority as Brown considers investments in space, staffing and infrastructure to support its research aspirations.
The life sciences include many of the most space-intensive research programs across Brown. Life sciences units at Brown include 20 biology and clinical departments and more than a dozen research centers and institutes in the Division of Biology and Medicine; the Institute for Biology, Engineering and Medicine; the interdisciplinary Carney Institute for Brain Science; the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences; and four departments and more than a dozen research centers and institutes at the School of Public Health.
Brown’s current primary research facilities include the Biomedical Center and Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences on College Hill, the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine at 70 Ship St. in the Jewelry District, and 121 South Main St., home to the School of Public Health. All are currently at or near maximum capacity, and some need significant investments for renovation and deferred maintenance.
Dr. Mukesh K. Jain, who joined the University as dean of medicine and biological sciences in March 2022, said creating a new facility in the Jewelry District, where Brown has invested more than $225 million over the last 12 years, would provide much-needed space for existing research centers to grow and for new ones to flourish.
“The life sciences at Brown continue to grow at a robust rate, and it’s an incredibly exciting time to join this research community,” Jain said. “A modern facility with the laboratory space, technology and infrastructure to translate cutting-edge science will enable Brown to implement a growth plan that supports research teams working on scales ranging from molecular-level science to biotechnology innovations, to the latest developments in patient therapies and interventions.”
A key part of the vision is to provide investigators access to state-of-the art technologies that “enable the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics, particularly in highly promising areas such as RNA biology, to stimulate stronger partnerships with biotech and pharma, which will accelerate the timeline to clinical impact while simultaneously enhancing economic vibrancy and workforce opportunities for our Rhode Island community,” Jain added.
While the programming phase of the building design process must assess needs across Brown’s programs and determine what specific spaces would be included, a new facility would position the University to build upon a series of major developments in life sciences research.
A modern facility with the laboratory space, technology and infrastructure to translate cutting-edge science will enable Brown to implement a growth plan that supports research teams working on scales ranging from molecular-level science to biotechnology innovations, to the latest developments in patient therapies and interventions.
Most recently, Brown established the Legorreta Cancer Center, building on the strengths of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology at Brown and Lifespan Health System. The center convenes researchers, clinicians and medical experts from Brown and its affiliated hospitals to bring basic science discoveries, new technologies and other innovations to clinical therapies and interventions to patients facing cancer diagnoses. Center leaders are working toward a National Cancer Institute designation, which recognizes centers across the nation that meet rigorous standards for state-of-the-art research focused on developing new approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.
In 2021, Brown established the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a joint program between the Carney Institute for Brain Science and the Division of Biology and Medicine. Life scientists are developing new approaches to identifying the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease in diverse populations across the lifespan. In collaboration with colleagues in the hospital affiliates and the School of Public Health, current efforts are focused on working toward gaining National Institute on Aging designation and funding as an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
The recent developments build on a decades-long foundation of high-impact scholarship by scientists in the departments, institutes and centers at the Warren Alpert Medical School, clinical partners, the School of Engineering and School of Public Health, said Brown Provost Richard M. Locke. Working with Paxson and academic and administrative leaders across campus, Locke is guiding the development of Brown’s new Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise, which will be finalized in early fall as an addendum to the University’s strategic plan. The life sciences building would be one of the first major capital projects arising from the plan.
The common thread across Brown’s life sciences research programs is a relentless drive to make discoveries and create clinical solutions that ultimately make a positive impact on the lives of individual patients, Locke said.
“State-of-the-art laboratories in the Jewelry District will not only spark new collaborations among the amazing scholars already based at Brown, but also help us to recruit world-class researchers and the next generation of life scientists,” he said. “We are committed at Brown to supporting and advancing the kind of bold and novel research undertakings that emanate from a community of scholars that prides itself on innovation and collaboration and can result in the biomedical breakthroughs that can forge new futures in human health.”