A revolutionary research and teaching facility that opened in late April at the University of Colorado Boulder will allow scientists to tackle biomedical challenges ranging from cancer, heart disease and tissue engineering to the development of new biofuels.

Rendering courtesy of CU Boulder
An architects rendering shows the Systems Biotechnology Building at the University of Colorado at Boulder facing Colorado Avenue along the east side.

Faculty, staff and students working in the new $160-million Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building come from five departments on campus, including chemistry and biochemistry, chemical and biological engineering, computer science, MCD biology and physics. Several faculty also have joint appointments with departments at CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

The building is named after Jennie Smoly Caruthers, the late wife of CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Marvin Caruthers of the chemistry and biochemistry department. Jennie was an adjunct professor in the college’s chemistry and biochemistry department, a researcher in the MCD biology department and a biotechnology patent expert.

Designed by HDR/Robert A.M. Stern Architects and built by Denver’s JE Dunn Construction, the 336,800-sq-ft facility will host more than 60 faculty and 500 researchers and support staff on CU-Boulder’s East Campus. The overall design concept consists of “research neighborhoods” made up of flexible research laboratories and laboratory-support spaces. The building’s labs are modular and can be changed to accommodate the evolving needs of scientists and students, while a main street corridor helps foster interaction and collaboration.

The new facility is also expected to stimulate new jobs in Colorado’s biotechnology industry, which generates more than $400 million in state taxes annually and supports some 36,000 employees at more than 375 companies, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate Tom Cech directs the Biofrontiers Institute, which is housed in the new building. It advances human health and welfare by exploring frontiers of unknown biology to further teaching, research and technology at the intersections of the life sciences, physical sciences, math, computational sciences and engineering.

The Biofrontiers Institute received a $15-million grant toward ongoing construction of the building in 2010 through the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The ARRA funding originated from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.

In addition to the Biofrontiers Institute, the building hosts the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Division of Biochemistry. All three units will benefit from the state-of-the-art research space and equipment, said Cech. The facility encourages students and faculty to interact with others outside their departments on problems in modern biology best approached in an interdisciplinary fashion, he added.

“People from my group walking down the hall past one of these research neighborhoods might be brought into a scientific conversation with engineers or computer scientists from another lab, promoting the cross-fertilization of new ideas,” Cech said.

The building is on track to earn a LEED-Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The mechanical and electrical systems, in particular, incorporate significant energy-saving and energy-recovery models.

In addition to the $15-million NIH grant, the building is funded by private donations and money from the university and the state of Colorado. The university seeks to raise $75 million in private donations by June 2014.

Project Details

• More than 600 jobs were created during the construction phase of the building.

• 975,000 bricks were used on the exterior, plus 10,000 pieces of cut limestone.

• The ductwork weighs about 338 tons and has 44 miles of piping.

• 3,400 pieces of glass were used for the windows.