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Health Center Today, March 22, 2010

Health Center Receives Nearly $8 Million Federal Grant for Improvements to Research Core Facility

By Carolyn Pennington

The University of Connecticut Health Center has received a $7.9 million federal grant to renovate, modernize, and improve a research core facility that supports the projects of 136 scientists.

The grant from the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, will support a 15,480 square foot renovation in one of the original research buildings on the Farmington campus. The funding was awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

"This grant will move the UConn Health Center forward to achieve national and international prominence by sustaining and expanding our core facilities in support of our interdisciplinary and clinical and translational research initiatives," says Dr. Marc Lalande, principal investigator of the grant award and senior associate dean, research planning and coordination. "UConn is among a select group of academic medical centers to be awarded Recovery Act funds through the NIH’s facilities improvement grant program, which underscores the importance of and the need for the project."

The plan will significantly improve the overall operational efficiencies of the facility and correct problematic working conditions and ergonomic issues for the staff. It will also use sustainable "green" technologies to reduce water and energy consumption, thereby producing cost efficiencies over the long term.

The project is estimated to take a little more than two years and will immediately create new jobs. An estimated, 115 to130 construction and trades workers will be employed during the proposed renovations. In addition, throughout the design and construction period, 15 to 20 full and part-time architects, engineers, technical support staff and specialty consultants will work on the project. The NIH grant will fund 85 percent of the renovations; the remaining 15 percent, or approximately $1.3 million, will be financed by the Health Center.

"This stimulus grant is a win-win for Connecticut," says 5th District Congressman Christopher Murphy. "Not only will it make needed improvements to the UConn Health Center, it will also create jobs, from the engineers designing the upgrades to the men and women who will transform this facility."

Expanded funding for NIH research included in the stimulus legislation already has resulted in awards of more than $19 million for investigators at the Health Center. The grant announced today brings the total stimulus funding from NIH to approximately $27 million over several years.

A number of research programs will benefit from the improvement of the core facilities, including a group project researching the development of protective immunity against viral and bacterial pathogens and their products, which received more than $3.5 million in ARRA funds.