Just downhill from the football stadium on Providence Road, under a big white tent, a group of high-level University of Missouri boosters stood around talking about the Big 12.
This was not a tailgate but a ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the $10 million International Institute for Nano and Molecular Medicine, which is expected to open at the end of 2007.
And the big 12 they were talking about were MU and 11 other partners chosen by the National Cancer Institute to research ways to use nanotechnology to detect and treat cancer at the molecular level.
Fred Hawthorne, a renowned scientist who moved to MU from the University of California-Los Angeles to lead the institute’s research team, said the 26,000-square-foot building will unite a variety of researchers and resources.
“In Columbia, I found everything I had been seeking in one place throughout my career,” Hawthorne said.
The Nanomedicine Institute will be located in front of the MU Research Reactor because Hawthorne will use nuclear reactions to study how compounds of the element boron might be used in diagnosing and treating cancer.
Other research taking place at the institute will include pharmacology, immunochemistry and medical imaging.
The MU Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place will be constructed between the Nanotech Institute and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, and the area off Providence Road is now being called MU Research Park.
The incubator project’s leader, Jake Halliday, said construction of the $9.6 million building will likely begin in April. Monsanto recently contributed $2 million to the project, enough to allow construction to begin.
Halliday and others attending the institute groundbreaking said the combination of resources at the MU Research Park will likely boost Columbia’s economy.
The hope of the local business community is that inventions at the Nanotechnology Institute will be commercialized by companies that are formed locally and nurtured at the incubator.
“We expect them to be a source of innovation and spin-off companies,” Halliday said of the Nanomedicine Institute.
Columbia businessman Tom Atkins told the crowd at the Nov. 20 groundbreaking, “I will mark today as one of the greatest days of my tenure on the University of Missouri Board of Curators. This institute undoubtedly will lead to achievements that will benefit the entire world, discoveries that have the potential to improve all of our lives.”