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Biotech center gains lease


By Rick Moriarty
Syracuse Post-Standard Staff Writer
Saturday, October 02, 2004

It took an act of Congress - literally - but the Central New York Biotechnology Research Center has the land it needs.

Congress approved a 75-year lease of four acres of land owned by the Veterans Administration Medical Center to the research center in July.

That gives the research center the land it needs to begin construction on the first of three buildings just west of Weiskotten Hall at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The center has $20 million in funding from the state and is seeking a $10 million federal grant.

If it gets the grant, the center will have enough to start construction on the first building, which will cost about $30 million to $35 million, officials said Friday. The entire project will cost $85 million.

Two Veterans Administration buildings used for animal research will be demolished. But under the lease agreement, the VA will get free space in the biotechnology research center, said James Cody, director of the VA Medical Center.

Construction will not start right away, however. Cornelius Murphy, president of State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said it will take one year to complete architectural and engineering plans. An environmental review of the site already is being conducted, he said.

Murphy said the location was chosen because it is close to ESF, Upstate Medical University and the VA center. But it also has the advantage of being highly visible from Interstate 81, he said.

Officials are not waiting for the building to go up to launch an academic program closely tied to it.

Dr. Michael Roizen, president of the research center, said a program will start in January offering a certificate in bioprocess engineering, manufacturing medicines and other products from the combination of biological and technological processes.

Roizen said the certificate program is designed for 20 students a year and eventually will lead to a master's degree program. It will be the only program of its sort in the United States, making it one of the things that will differentiate the research center from other biotech centers in the country, he said.

The center is a partnership of ESF, Upstate Medical University and the Metropolitan Development Association.

It has developed collaborations with industry groups and corporations such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Welch Allyn Inc. and Sensis Corp. Its academic partners are Syracuse University, Le Moyne College and Cornell University.

© 2004 The Post-Standard.

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