The University of Florida’s Institute on Aging has received close to $15 million from the National Institutes of Health to construct an almost 40,000-square-foot complex for clinical and translational research. The building will bring together scientists from a range of scientific disciplines and enhance how aging research is carried out on the campus.
“This is a unique opportunity to have basic science, clinical, epidemiology and health services researchers working under the same roof on a common goal — improving the health and independence of older adults,” said Marco Pahor, M.D., principal investigator of the grant and director of the UF Institute on Aging.
The one-stop facility will make it easier for mobility-restricted older adults to take part in clinical trials, and strengthen connections among existing UF research centers, including the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the newly established Cognitive Aging and Memory Clinical Translational Research Program.
More than one-fifth of Florida’s population is age 60 or older, according to 2006-08 data from the United States Census Bureau. Among all states, Florida has the largest proportion of elderly adults.
The new building is part of UF’s commitment to develop multidisciplinary research programs and facilities to help address the needs of the Florida’s aging population. It will provide a home on the UF Health Science Center campus for Institute on Aging researchers who are scattered across 11 locations throughout UF and around the state — some in leased spaces.
With facilities for clinical research recruitment and assessment, laboratories, training, conferences and lifestyle intervention — including an indoor walking track, demonstration kitchen and behavioral counseling suite — the building will play a key role in advancing aging-related research and career development at UF and around the region.
“Thanks to Dr. Pahor and his team, we now will have a centerpiece around which we can potentially develop more broadly an academic home for clinical and translational science at UF,” said David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System.
Bringing researchers from varied fields such as genetics and biostatistics under the same roof will facilitate the kinds of spontaneous and informal interaction that often lead to meaningful multidisciplinary collaborations. The building also will allow clinical investigators better supervision of field operations.
Awarded through a highly competitive peer-review process, the construction grant will be administered by the National Center for Research Resources, the same agency that last year awarded UF a Clinical and Translational Science Award.
Funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the project will create or retain an estimated 376 jobs, three quarters of which will be construction-related. The others include 30 faculty positions as well as graduate assistants and support and administrative staff.
The new grant comes on the heels of a recent $64 million NIH research award to the UF Institute on Aging to study whether physical activity can help prevent mobility disability and other morbidities in older adults.
Together the institute’s researchers have more than 90 active NIH and other grants in basic, clinical and translational science totaling more than $200 million, and almost 150 pending grant proposals that would garner close to $200 million if funded. The new building helps to pull all those scientific efforts together and improve the possibility for even greater impact of the Institute on Aging.
“The Institute on Aging initiative at the University of Florida is very important to the state and the nation,” said Win Phillips, D.Sc., UF’s vice president for research. “Major support from the National Institutes of Health enables the University of Florida to take a national leadership position in this important endeavor. This building will provide critical infrastructure to enhance this activity.”
The four-story building — to be located at the northeast corner of Gale Lemerand Drive and Mowry Road — is designed according to the LEED Platinum certification standards of the United States Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest of a four-level rating system aimed at responding to environmental challenges such as responsible use of resources, reduction of pollution and making indoor spaces conducive to good health and well being.
The new building incorporates features to improve indoor air quality through the use of low-emission building materials, efficient energy production and use through photovoltaic cells, and light sensor technologies and water conservation technologies. The project also calls for prevention of construction activity pollution and reduction of light pollution from the completed building.
“The new facility will take the university’s LEED goals to the highest level and serve as another example of the commitment of the faculty and staff toward sustainable design and emphasis on energy efficiency,” said Carol Walker, assistant vice president and director of UF’s facilities planning and construction division.