Governor, legislators take hard hat tour of new pharmacy building at URI

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Today’s tour marks final stages of $75 million project

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 29, 2012 – Gov. Lincoln Chafee and legislative leaders joined University of Rhode Island officials today for a tour of the new $75 million, 142,000-square-foot pharmacy building.

Gordon D. Fox, speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and Rhode Island Sen. Susan Sosnowski, District 37, walked through the five-story building with other legislators and URI leaders for an update on the progress of the latest step in developing the north district of the Kingston Campus as a health and science hub. When opened, it will be the largest academic building on campus.

“We are very pleased that the governor and our legislative leaders have taken time out of their busy schedules to see for themselves the progress we are making on this latest project to enhance pharmaceutical sciences and biomedical research in Rhode Island,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “As most Americans know, health care, and in particular disease prevention and treatment, are among the most important parts of our economy. The health care sector is a leading jobs generator nationwide and here in Rhode Island. This facility will allow us to prepare even more of the best pharmacists and biomedical scientists of the future and will also bolster our ability to work with the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, medical schools and other colleges. From these research-intensive activities, I see URI being a catalyst for biomedical and pharmaceutical startup businesses in Rhode Island and beyond.”

In 2006, voters overwhelmingly approved $65 million in general obligation bonds to finance a new pharmacy building. Private donations and University funds are making up the difference.

“URI is one of four original pharmacy schools in New England, so we’re building on a strong foundation,” Chafee said. “Staying at the forefront of the pharmaceutical industry is putting tax dollars to good use.”

Those who arrived for the tour today noticed quickly that the exterior is essentially complete. The ribbon cutting for the new facility will be Sept. 4. A leading feature of the College of Pharmacy’s program for years has been the current good manufacturing process facility, which was squeezed by space limitations in the college’s current home, Fogarty Hall. The new $6 million facility will allow URI to once again become a leader in best practices training for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as private pharmaceutical companies, and it will permit the production of a wide range of human use pharmaceuticals up to clinical trial scale.

“It’s hugely important to the economy,” Fox said. “With all of the advances in biomedical and drug technology, this is where it’s going. URI’s reputation in pharmacy is second to none in the country and that allows us to attract students who will help create new ways to treat people.”

The five-story structure will also allow the college to accept more students in its six-year doctor of pharmacy program, its graduate programs and its new four-year bachelor’s program in pharmaceutical sciences. It will replace the 66,000-square-foot Fogarty Hall, which was opened in 1964 and designed to accommodate a total of 235 students. Today, 700 students and 45 faculty members squeeze into the outdated facility.

As the most selective college at URI, the College of Pharmacy typically enrolls about 95 students annually in its doctor of pharmacy program from an applicant pool of more than 1,000. The new building will allow URI to increase enrollment in the doctor of pharmacy program by 30 percent over the next several years. Additional students will be enrolled in the bachelor’s program in pharmaceutical sciences.

Ronald P. Jordan, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said the college has maintained its excellence in all phases, despite being in a crowded, inefficient facility more than five decades old.

“We are now on the verge of giving our faculty and students the best environment and tools to continue their critical work on medication and disease management, medication adherence and optimizing drug therapy. Additionally, state of the art laboratories will permit student and research advances related to such diseases as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and AIDS,” Jordan said. “We thank our state leaders and the taxpayers for their support that will help us improve the health of millions of people.”

The college’s new home will house the latest research spaces designed to foster interaction and teamwork. Tissue culture rooms and dedicated technology zones within eight-person research modules will support the research laboratories. The teaching spaces include a 165-seat auditorium, two 30-seat classrooms and a 60-seat classroom.

Critical hands-on teaching, learning and research facilities now housed in Fogarty, such as the 3-D visualization auditorium and the statewide core laboratory for the biomedical research network that involves nearly all of the state’s four-year colleges will be housed in larger, technologically advanced spaces. An intravenous preparation lab and sophisticated inter-professional simulation laboratory for pharmacists, nurses, physicians and other ancillary providers to learn teamwork when delivering care will be features in the new building.

The architect, Payette of Boston, designed the building, and the contractor is Suffolk Construction Co., Inc. of Boston.

When completed, the pharmacy building will join the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences as lynchpins in the new health and life sciences district. That 140,000-square-foot structure, which houses teaching laboratories, cutting edge research laboratories and facilities for DNA sequencing, opened in January 2009.

Another project for the north district, the Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, is progressing. The design work by William Wilson Architects of Boston is complete for the $70 million facility to be built in a portion of the parking lot between the Chafee Social Science Center and White Hall. Construction is set to begin in the summer, with completion planned for September 2014. Of the total project cost, $61 million is being funded through a bond issue approved by Rhode Island voters.

Pictured above

From left, URI President David M. Dooley, Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Rep. Gordon D. Fox, Speaker of the R.I. House of Representatives survey the exterior of the new pharmacy building Thursday on the University of Rhode Island Kingston Campus.

Rep. Gordon D. Fox, Sen. Susan Sosnowski, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, URI President David M. Dooley, URI Dean of the College of Pharmacy Ron Jordan.

From left, Robert Weygand, University of Rhode Island Vice President for Administration and Finance; Rep. Gordon D. Fox, Speaker of the R.I. House of Representatives, URI President David M. Dooley and Gov. Lincoln Chafee share a laugh Thursday during a tour of the new pharmacy building on the Kingstown Campus of URI.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Michael Salerno Photography.