URI to celebrate opening of $75 million pharmacy building

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Ribbon-cutting, symposium and international conference mark celebration

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 19, 2012 – When the University of Rhode Island celebrates the opening of its new $75 million building for the College of Pharmacy in September, it won’t just be marking the completion of a voter-supported center for pharmaceutical teaching and research.

It will also be calling attention to the college’s roles in making the state, nation and world healthier, bringing in more than $83 million in federal and private research to reinvest in Rhode Island’s economy since 2000, developing partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms and attracting high paying jobs.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with elected officials and dignitaries will take place on Sept. 4, a free public symposium on drug therapy in the 21st Century is planned for Sept. 14, and an international scientific conference on frontiers in pharmaceutical sciences featuring researchers from around the world and Nobel laureate Thomas Steitz will be held from Sept. 28-Sept. 30.

When its doors open, the pharmacy college’s 144,000 square-foot building will be the largest academic building on the Kingston campus. In 2006, voters overwhelmingly approved $65 million in general obligation bonds to finance a new pharmacy building, along with private donations and University funds. More than 380 Rhode Islanders were employed on the project, from architectural and engineering to construction jobs.

Ronald P. Jordan, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said it is gratifying to know that Rhode Islanders support the teaching, research and service missions of the college.

“We are leading the nation in interdisciplinary training of health professionals,” Jordan said. “Our pharmacy students work with students at the Alpert Medical School at Brown, and nursing and other health profession colleges at URI and RIC. Our new facility includes a sophisticated interdisciplinary health simulation lab where teams, including social workers and physical therapists will train with simulators and standardized patient actors.

“Through its millions in federal grants, the college has fostered knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer and AIDS, Jordan said.

“Just as important, pharmacy has involved nearly every four-year college in Rhode Island in a federal effort to make the state more competitive in attracting biomedical research dollars to the Ocean State. This support from Rhode Islanders will allow us to remain among the leaders in pharmacy education and research for decades to come.”

Jordan said such an investment is paying off in great jobs and entry into excellent graduate schools and fellowship programs for URI pharmacy graduates. Over the last five years, the job placement rate exceeds 95 percent each year.

The new facility will feature a $6 million good manufacturing process center that will allow URI to lead in best practices training for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as private pharmaceutical companies. It will permit the production of a wide range of human-use pharmaceuticals up to clinical trial scale. Jordan said such activities will bring money to Rhode Island and have the potential to stimulate development of biomedical businesses in the state.

The College is a critical part of the knowledge-based economic future of the Ocean State and with this facility will be able to grow its partnerships with leading biomedical companies, secure more research funding to reinvest into Rhode Island’s economy, and attract start-up biotech companies to the state.

The five-story building will also allow the college to accept more students into its six-year doctor of pharmacy program, its graduate programs and its new four-year bachelor’s program in pharmaceutical sciences. When the building opens, it will accommodate as many as 820 students, a 50 percent increase from 2006 when the bond was approved.

At that time, URI promised that it would increase enrollment by 40 percent. For three years already, the college has admitted 130 students to its doctor of pharmacy program compared to 85 in 2006 in preparation for the additional space the new facility will provide, moving from the 66,000-square-foot Fogarty Hall, which opened in 1964 to accommodate 235 students.

In addition to educating 50 percent more pharmacy graduates to fill critical Rhode Island needs, the new facility will offer the best possible training by enhancing URI’s ability to attract leading pharmaceutical faculty and offering sophisticated labs and equipment.

The major events are:

Ribbon Cutting

• Ribbon cutting, Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. Activities begin with a speaking program in the Chafee Social Science Center, Room 271, with the ribbon cutting to follow outside the new building at the main entrance on the west side.

Sept. 14 symposium to feature inventor of Lyrica

Drug Therapy in the 21st Century: Discovery and Clinical Use, Sept. 14, a free symposium open to health care professionals from academic and industry and the general public, will feature Richard B. Silverman, inventor of Lyrica, which is used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia. The John Evans Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, Silverman will be among the six speakers who are national pharmacy leaders.

The symposium will focus on emerging strategies in drug discovery and development, service models, and pharmacy practice advancements that will increase quality and safety and promote human wellness.

While the program is free and open to the public, those interested must register at http://www.uri.edu/pharmacy/symposium/drug_therapy.html.

To be held in the Thomas M. Ryan Family Auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, 120 Flagg Road, Kingston, the program begins at 8 a.m. and ends with a panel discussion at 3:45 p.m.

Nobel laureate to keynote international pharmaceutical conference

More than 30 internationally recognized pharmaceutical researchers from around the world, including China, Germany, India, Spain, Pakistan, Sweden and the UK, will speak at Frontiers in Pharmaceutical Sciences: Global Perspectives, Sept. 28 through 30 on the Kingston Campus. Nobel Prize winner Thomas Steitz, the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and professor of chemistry at Yale University, will offer a keynote address Sunday, Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. Steitz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 with two other scientists, and is also an investigator at Yale’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Registration is required and full details about the conference can be found at http://www.uri.edu/pharmacy/frontiers/2012/index.html.