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$60 million lab and clinic expansion takes off

Released: Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Five-story Basic Science Building now rising above existing research complex.

A much-needed 187,000-square-foot expansion to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of the Louisiana State University System is quickly taking shape at the rear of the existing complex. The fifth and final floor of the Basic Science Building is being formed and can easily be seen from Perkins Road and Kenilworth Parkway.

The building, once the roof is added, will ultimately rise approximately 78 feet above the ground. The Basic Science Building is about 15 percent complete and projected to be wrapped up in May 2003. Once finished, it will provide working space for 48 principal investigators and 300 support staff. Construction of yet another building, an expansion to the Clinic, is expected to begin in October.

We are extremely excited and can’t wait to take possession of the new buildings,” says Executive Director Claude Bouchard. “All of our existing laboratories are packed full of scientists and we need the additional space to bring in outstanding new researchers and their staffs.

The additions will give us the state-of-the-art facilities that we need to keep competitive. It’s a pleasure to drive into work each morning and to see the construction moving steadily forward,” he says.

Once completed and equipped, the Basic Sciences Building will be a $40 million project, funded primarily by the Pennington Medical Foundation. “We are most grateful to the Pennington Medical Foundation for their continued support of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center,” says Bouchard. “Their contributions to our success are immeasurable.”

Three of the five floors of the Basic Sciences Building will be laboratory space, while the second and fourth floors will be mechanical. The layout allows easy access for maintenance and improvements. “This is a very complex structure,” says Facilities Manager Robert McNeese. “The design makes it easy to service the building without interrupting the research.”

The Basic Science Building is phase 1 of the Pennington Center’s current construction program. Phase 2 centers around the construction of a new Clinical Research Building. It will cost an estimated $20 million, which will also be largely supported by the foundation that the C.B. Pennington family established in 1980 to build the research center.

McNeese expects to take bids in October for a new four-floor, 80,000- square-foot Clinical Research Building that will increase the working space by 200 percent. The Clinical Research Building will front Perkins Road on what is now a parking lot adjoining the existing clinic.

Construction is less technical than that of the Basic Science Building and is expected to take only one year. Passersby on Perkins Road will also see work begin this summer on new parking lots. The Clinical Research Building will displace approximately 90 spaces, but new parking lots will result in 420 additional spaces.

The final piece of the construction program is a $3.2 million upgrade of the central plant, which is needed to absorb the additional demands of the new buildings. That project is 90 percent complete and doubles the Pennington Center’s chilled water and boiler capacity. It also offers new cutting-edge compressed air and vacuum systems for the laboratories.

The expansions are in keeping with goals established in the Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Vision 2005 Plan, written two years ago. It forecast a doubling of the number of faculty, from about 45 to 90 by 2005. The five-year plan also calls for a doubling of the total number of employees to about 750 and doubling of the working research and clinical space. There are currently approximately 425 scientists and staff working at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“I’m pleased that we are on track to more than meet the goals established in the Vision 2005 Plan,” says Bouchard. “This growth is essential to our continuing to build on the leadership role we have attained in the fields of preventive medicine and nutrition.”

Note: For renderings/photos of the new buildings, please contact peschar@pbrc.edu or Alan Pesch at 225.763.3097. Construction images.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.