(North Chicago, Illinois) The President and CEO of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, K. Michael Welch, MB ChB FRCP, announced today that the University’s Board of Trustees had approved plans for the development of the first phase of the Rosalind Franklin Innovation and Research Park on its campus in North Chicago, Illinois which will require a $50 million investment.
The university’s Board of Trustees on Thursday approved the first phase of development for the science park, which includes the construction, under a public/private partnership, of a four-story, 100,000 square-foot addition to the north side of the university campus at 3333 Green Bay Road. The building will also include offices, meeting rooms for small and large groups, and common areas on the first floor. Long-term plans envision the possible addition of two more buildings. Groundbreaking is expected in September, with occupancy by summer 2019.
The park will spur collaboration among academic and industry scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the goal of faster translation of RFU’s nationally recognized research into treatments for conditions that cause suffering for millions of people and their families, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer and mental illness.
“The Innovation and Research Park is a commitment to a healthier future,” said RFU President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch, a neurologist and former National Institutes of Health funded investigator in stroke and headache. “Biomedical research and development can improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The research park will promote very intentional interdisciplinary collaboration that might yield new answers to help people live longer, healthier lives.”
RFU is working with not-for-profit TUFF, The University Finance Foundation, in the development and financing of the $50 million project. TUFF has built and managed successful science parks across the nation, including at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Delaware, Louisiana State University and Florida Institute of Technology.
“We’re helping RFU expand its impressive research capabilities in a region noted for significant pharmaceutical and medical device company activity,” said TUFF President and CEO Kevin Byrne. “Creating a space that enhances interactions and partnerships between the university and these innovative industries will help speed the translation of discovery into better health and life-saving treatments.”
In its initial phase, the park will house up to 175 researchers focused principally on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and muscular dystrophy. The co-location of labs based on disease focus will create new synergies, enhance competitiveness for federal grant funding and venture capital and draw interest from potential philanthropic partners.
The university is partnering with North Chicago-based SmartHealth Activator to facilitate the founding of biotech startups by RFU faculty. The first such company, NeuroLucent, was launched early last year by neuroscientist Associate Professor Beth Stutzmann, based on her study of target compounds that show promise in preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.
RFU Executive Vice President of Research Ronald Kaplan said efforts to commercialize basic science discoveries have been limited in the northern Illinois region by the lack of a centralized bio-startup ecosystem.
“The science park is an investment in our research enterprise,” said Kaplan, a structural biochemist. “As we accelerate the development of our research and related intellectual property, we’re also creating the innovation epicenter for Chicagoland’s bioscience cluster.”
“We are very excited about our partnership with Rosalind Franklin University in taking this critical step towards accelerating the development of a biotech startup ecosystem and leverage the highest concentration of life science companies and people in the Midwest. The ecosystem that we are building today will not only benefit the local community and industry, but will help solve some of mankind’s greatest health challenges,” said President of SmartHealth Activator, Tom Denison.
The City of North Chicago and numerous elected officials have expressed support for the project. “The park will be an important addition to our continuing efforts to bring economic development to North Chicago,” said Mayor Leon Rockingham. “It won’t just add jobs for scientists, but construction and related service jobs, in addition to entry level jobs and internships for local students and college graduates.”
Non-profit Lake County Partners estimates that the first phase of the project will create an estimated 498 new jobs for a total economic impact of $117 million.
“The research park will be a catalyst for continued growth of Lake County’s well-known life science cluster and that means more economic development,” said Kevin Considine, Lake County Partners president and CEO. “This project will create jobs, including high-value research jobs. It will improve the health of our local and regional economy and ultimately, the health of our people.”
Rosalind Franklin is planning to break ground on the new science park sometime over the summer as plans for the first building are being finalized.
About Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
A national leader in interprofessional healthcare education and biomedical and clinical research, Rosalind Franklin University brings together more than 30 graduate health professions and science programs on a single campus, allowing for a wealth of team-based, interdisciplinary learning and practice opportunities. RFU includes the Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. More than 18,000 RFU degreed alumni are active throughout the United States and around the world.