Dedication Aug. 29 for UNL's Morrison Life Sciences Research Center

Released on 08/26/2008, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Friday, Aug. 29, 2008

WHERE: Morrison Building, 4240 Fair St., East Campus (north of College of Law, east of Veterinary Basic Sciences building).

Lincoln, Neb., August 26th, 2008 —
Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center (color JPEG)
Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center (color JPEG)

Dedication ceremonies will be Aug. 29 for the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's newest building.

The public dedication will be at 4:30 p.m. at the Morrison building, 4240 Fair St., on UNL's East Campus, just east of the Veterinary Basic Sciences building and north of the College of Law. Ceremonies will include remarks from university officials and dignitaries.

The $21 million, 74,000-square-foot research facility houses UNL virologists affiliated with the Nebraska Center for Virology, one of the university's signature research programs. These faculty worked at several locations across campus before moving into the new building in April.

The building provides space for the virology center to expand research on many of the leading viral threats, said molecular virologist Charles Wood, professor of biological sciences and the center's director. UNL scientists study the molecular mechanisms viruses use to cause disease. Their discoveries could lead to new tools to prevent or treat diseases caused by HIV, human papilloma virus, herpes and other major viruses that infect people, plants and animals.

The building features full labs for 12 scientists with separate areas for virus and cell culture, cold and dark rooms, shared instrumentation facilities, a Biological Safety Level 3 laboratory suite, offices, meeting rooms and video conferencing capabilities.

"Our scientists are doing great work. Now we have this wonderful state-of-the-science building and everything we need is right here under one roof -- convenient and accessible to everyone," Wood said.

The building was designed to foster interactions and collaborations among researchers, students and staff. Locating UNL virologists from different disciplines in the same building is exciting, said virologist Clinton Jones, professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences and the center's associate director. He said he hopes this shared environment increases research productivity and collaborations that could lead to important discoveries and new funding opportunities.

Wood agreed. "Interacting formally and informally is such key part of science. Having everyone here is going to enhance interactions and the sharing of ideas."

James Van Etten, professor of plant pathology and a co-director of the virology center, said he expects the building will increase the visibility for Nebraska's virology research.

One of the virology center's strengths lies in the diversity of its research. While most virology centers focus on human viruses, the Nebraska center includes scientists who work on viruses that infect plants and animals as well as people. Research has shown that many viruses that infect people, animals, plants, bacteria and even algae have common ancestors. "So studies on plants, for example, can tell us things about animal viruses and vice versa," Van Etten said.

Wood said the building also "is a great recruiting tool. Students are really excited when they see this wonderful facility and our program."

The Nebraska Center for Virology links virologists at UNL, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University. It was established in 2000 as a National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence with a five-year, $10.7 million NIH National Center for Research Resources grant and earned a five-year, $10.6 million renewal in 2005. The building is named for Morrison, a Hastings businessman, University of Nebraska Foundation trustee and longtime UNL supporter who provided the lead private gift for construction.

"Ken Morrison's historic support of the life sciences is extraordinary. Our university has benefited tremendously from his generosity," said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "Research into viruses that affect plants, animals and humans is one of our most productive research programs, and Mr. Morrison's foresight in funding the building will enhance this research in our state for years to come."

Space for UNL's expanding research enterprise is critically short, and the new building is an early step in the university's efforts to address this need, said Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development. "This great new facility provides the infrastructure, the setting and the technology to expand our world-class research on some of the major viruses that threaten our people, our animals and our crops."