UNMC to dedicate new research tower today -- LOCATION CHANGED

by Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations | May 06, 2009

picture disc.
A formal dedication ceremony will be held today for the Durham Research Center II, right. The DRC II and its twin, the Durham Research Center, were both named for Omaha philanthropist, Charles "Chuck" Durham.
The campus community is invited to attend a formal dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. today for the Durham Research Center II (DRC II).

The ceremony will take place in the Durham Research Center Auditorium. Employees are invited to tour the new building after the ceremony.

Both buildings are named in honor of the late Charles (Chuck) Durham, the former CEO and chairman of the engineering and architectural firm, HDR, Inc. The DRC II cost $76.4 million, has 10 levels, 95 laboratories and 252,179 gross square feet. Durham provided the lead gift for both research towers.

Towering hope

Click on the image above to view a video featuring UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., Vice Chancellor for Research Tom Rosenquist, Ph.D., and others discussing the Durham Research Center II and the generosity of Chuck Durham.

This and other videos can be viewed at the Vice Chancellor for Research Web site, which also will facilitate a webcast of today's dedication ceremony for the DRC II.

"The DRC II enables us to recruit and retain outstanding scientists with funded research who will make scientific discoveries to benefit Nebraskans and the world," said UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D. "It will allow us to explore new avenues of research, such as regenerative medicine, and expand our areas of research excellence in cancer, pulmonary, neuroscience and biosecurity.

"Chuck Durham was a great visionary leader. He was way ahead of his time in everything he did. He told me he could do more for humanity by supporting research than anything else he could do. He left a tremendous legacy at UNMC. These magnificent research towers will advance research, health care and health education for many years to come."

John Niemann, Ed.D., senior vice president of the University of Nebraska Foundation, joined Dr. Maurer in his praise for Durham.

"Initiative and compassion are qualities that distinguish genuine leadership," he said. "Chuck Durham was just that -- an indomitable, focused, visionary leader who loved Omaha and forever improved the course of biomedical research at UNMC for the benefit of Nebraskans and all who follow him. Chuck was a treasure whose life, love and convictions will forever be revered by UNMC and people who had the pleasure to know him."

Location change

Due to inclement weather, today's dedication ceremony for the Durham Research Center II will be held in the Durham Research Center Auditorium.

Dr. Maurer will emcee today's dedication ceremony and other speakers will include:
  • Gov. Dave Heineman;
  • Roger Bulger, M.D., former president of the Association of Academic Health Centers;
  • Kent Schroeder, J.D., chairman of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents;
  • James B. Milliken, J.D., president of the University of Nebraska;
  • Dr. Niemann; and
  • Vimla Band, Ph.D., professor and vice chairwoman for research in the UNMC Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy; and
  • Members of the Durham family.

Today's event will be highlighted by the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of Chuck Durham created by Omaha artist John Lajba. Lajba's best known pieces locally are "Tribute to Caregivers" outside The Nebraska Medical Center's Hixson-Lied Center, the "Road to Omaha" sculpture at Rosenblatt Stadium, the waiting passengers at the Durham Museum and the "World War II 50th Anniversary Heartland Memorial" at Heartland of America Park.

The DRC II sits directly south of the original DRC -- which opened in 2003. The two buildings are connected on the atrium level and anchor the west end of the UNMC campus.

Initially, the DRC II will house more than 250 staff members, including 35 principal investigators who bring in a combined $76.4 million in research funding.

The scientists conduct research in several areas including pulmonary diseases, neurodevelopmental disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, regenerative medicine, serious bacterial infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and gastroenterology/hepatology diseases.

Dr. Maurer said UNMC's growing research enterprise was vital in attracting top scientists such as breast cancer researchers, Drs. Vimla and Hamid Band, and Ken Bayles, Ph.D., who studies antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, to the medical center.

Since becoming chancellor in 1998, Dr. Maurer has made building UNMC's research enterprise his top priority. He noted the importance of research in growing the state's economy. For every $1 million in research funding UNMC receives, 32 new jobs are generated, he said.

UNMC's research funding from external sources now exceeds $82 million annually and has resulted in the creation of more than 2,600 highly skilled jobs in the state.

Like the DRC, the new research tower was funded primarily through philanthropic donations. In addition to Durham, other benefactors include the Nebraska Public Health Laboratories, an anonymous donor, the C.L. Werner family, Ruth and Bill Scott, UNMC Physicians, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, and Hawkins Construction Company.

The opening of the DRC II marks the second major building to be completed at UNMC in the past year. Last June, the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education opened on the east end of campus at the northeast corner of 42nd and Emile streets.

The Sorrell Center, which is home to the UNMC College of Medicine, has become the centerpiece for educational activities at UNMC as well as the gateway building to the campus. The four-level, $52.7 million facility includes 134,183 square feet and was funded entirely by private donations through the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Four laboratories, the commons area and a seminar room have been named by principal benefactors to the DRC II, and one cancer research lab was gifted by an anonymous benefactor.

The named laboratories, commons area and seminar room include:

  • Level 1 -- Chancellor Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Research Laboratories and Chancellor Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Commons (both funded by a donation from UNMC Physicians), and the Hawkins Construction Company Seminar Room;
  • Level 3 -- The C.L. Werner Family Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Laboratories;
  • Level 4 -- The Peter Kiewit Foundation Cancer Research Laboratories;
  • Level 5 -- Cancer Research Laboratories; and
  • Level 7 -- The Frederick F. Paustian M.D. Gastroenterology Research Laboratories (funded by a donation from Ruth and Bill Scott).

Level 6 also will be the future home of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratories.

The eighth level of DRC II will serve as the new home for the Nebraska Public Health Laboratories and the UNMC Biodefense Research Laboratories.

What others are saying

"The Durham Research Center towers exist because Chuck Durham was always willing to invest in a compelling vision coupled with a good plan. It was his great instinct for picking winning ideas that led other donors to join him in building this and the original tower. The best thing is that before he left us, Chuck was able to see that that he was correct in the tremendous impact the project would have on UNMC, our state and community, and the advancement of medicine." Walter Scott, Jr., community leader and longtime supporter of UNMC

"Research facilities like the Durham Research Center II rapidly become vital hubs of activity where scientists conduct studies that lead to new knowledge of diseases and better methods of treatment, prevention and early detection. This beautiful, state-of-the art research facility brings new scientific capacity to a campus that is already host to one of the National Cancer Institute's premier designated cancer centers: a facility renowned for its basic research programs in chemical carcinogenesis, molecular, cellular and structural biology, and translational research in new therapies. ... NCI is proud to share with our Nebraska colleagues the excitement of this moment of dedication, in a place where faculty members will renew their commitment to the future through scientific discovery." John Niederhuber, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute

"The University of Nebraska Medical Center is undergoing a transformation, and nothing represents this change better than the Durham Research Center. The momentum we now enjoy is due to the leaders in the medical center and leaders in the community who believe in and invest generously in the university's success. This is a partnership that benefits all Nebraska." James B. Milliken, J.D., president, University of Nebraska

"We used to say that research benefits the next generation of people. But now, the practical effectiveness of advanced research benefits people almost immediately. This building shows that the people of Nebraska have invested in healthier tomorrows. Without research, what will happen in 10 years? There will be new challenges in health care, and with this new building, new treatments will come. You have a generous community that has stepped in to support the expansion of your great university. That's unusual." Roger Bulger, M.D., former president of the Association of Academic Health Centers

"Everything about this marvelous building and its sister structure, the DRC, makes me very proud. I'm proud to work in a community that is so extraordinarily supportive of its scientists. I'm proud to be able to offer laboratory space to current and prospective UNMC scientists in this state-of-the-art research complex, the best in the country. And I'm especially proud of the scientists who do their world-class, groundbreaking research in the DRC: their dedication, productivity, and ability to attract dollars to support their work is spectacular and affirms the wisdom of the community's investment in them." Tom Rosenquist, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research

"The DRC II is an important addition to the campus. It will help the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center recruit and retain the very best cancer researchers. This is critically important for continued designation as a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and to be able to provide the very best care for cancer patients throughout the state." Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director, UNMC Eppley Cancer Center

"The economic impact that the University of Nebraska Medical Center has on Omaha cannot be overstated. The opening of the Durham Research Center II demonstrates UNMC's commitment to the economic health of Greater Omaha and Nebraska. As one of the state's largest employers, this investment will ripple across the state through the increased indirect impacts such as payroll, purchasing and general costs of running a business. And, of course, this new facility will increase UNMC's research capabilities, which will help the medical center attract even more world-class researchers." David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce

"Chuck Durham's contributions to the medical center have really turned it into an incredible place for economic development and one of the nation's best medical research centers. Chuck was a great American citizen and in all aspects a legend for our community." Dr. Gail and Mike Yanney, community leaders and UNMC supporters

"On behalf of Hawkins Construction, we are extremely proud to have constructed both Durham Research Centers. It is very rewarding to know that we have played a major role in UNMC's state-of-the-art research facilities that will have an enormous impact on improving the lives of the people in our community and abroad." Fred Hawkins, Jr., CEO, and Kim Hawkins, president, Hawkins Construction

"It honors us to participate in such a wonderful new addition to the university. We know that the University of Nebraska Medical Center will continue to accomplish many great achievements in medical research. By this, many lives will be saved. We are very proud of what UNMC means to us as well as many in Nebraska." Mr. and Mrs. C.L. Werner, whose donation created the C.L. Werner Family Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Laboratories in the DRC II

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