Twenty-two months after breaking ground, OMRF’s new research tower has its first residents.
Members of OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program have begun moving into laboratories on the sixth floor of the eight-story, 186,000 square foot facility. They are the first wave of a tide of more than 100 OMRF staff members who will move to the new tower in 2011.
The process of moving a scientific lab presents significant logistical challenges. Heavy files and books have to be packed into boxes and labeled, while lab chemicals and glassware are wrapped to avoid spills or breakage. It takes teams of movers to transport large and sensitive pieces of research equipment.
Kevin Moore, M.D., was the first OMRF scientist to move into the tower. He spent days before the move ensuring that minus-80 degree Celsius freezers full of expensive proteins, antibodies and bacterial stocks were compatible with the power source in the new space.
“It’s those mundane details you take for granted that really matter,” he said. “The freezers need the right amount of power and right type of plugs, or else you’re going to compromise your samples. Through cooperation and quick work, we got everything ready in time.”
But science waits for no one, not even movers. Ed Nguyen, a graduate student in Moore’s lab, was the first to finish an experiment in the new tower. His team purified a protein scientists hypothesize is crucial in the male reproductive system—work that could lead to a birth control medication for men.
“It’s wonderful to see what has long been a dream for OMRF come to fruition,” said program chair Rodger McEver, M.D., who holds the Alvin Chang Chair in Cardiovascular Biology at OMRF. “The tower is beautiful, but more importantly, the open floor plan will mean better communication and collaboration within the department.”
The 60-plus scientists and staff members in the Cardiovascular Biology Research Program are expected to complete the move by the end of the month. They will be followed in March by the physicians and staff of OMRF’s Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence, which will consist of facilities for treating patients as well as research laboratories.
Tower construction is still ongoing, so the move-in process will continue throughout 2011. By year’s end, OMRF expects that six of the tower’s eight floors will be completed and occupied. The remaining two floors will be left as shell space to allow for future expansion.
“Whether you’re a family or a medical research foundation, moving into a new home is never easy,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “But when we’re done, Oklahoma is going to have a medical research and clinical facility that’s second to none.”