$8 million in stimulus funding goes to UNL for Morrison addition

Released on 12/14/2009, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., December 14th, 2009 —
Morrison Building addition architectural drawing
Morrison Building addition architectural drawing

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been awarded $8 million in federal stimulus funds from the National Institutes of Health to expand the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center, home to the Nebraska Center for Virology.

The grant from NIH's National Center for Research Resources is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It will enable UNL to construct a 26,000-square-foot laboratory wing on the north side of the Morrison building on UNL's East Campus. The 68,741-square-foot Morrison building opened in 2008 and houses UNL scientists, students and staff associated with the Nebraska Center for Virology who previously were at several campus locations.

The building was designed to accommodate future expansion. The addition will include up to seven research laboratories, lab support facilities, and office and seminar space using the modular laboratory planning approach featured in the original building.

"We anticipated the need for expansion when we built Morrison. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding provides a very timely opportunity to meet that need," said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "It's an excellent stimulus project. In the near term, construction will create jobs and stimulate the economy. In the longer term, it will enhance our state's research capacity. And it uniquely leverages the private generosity of Ken Morrison."

Preliminary planning is complete and the design for the addition is being developed. Bids are expected to be let early in 2011, construction is expected to begin in spring 2011 and the addition should be completed by summer 2012.

The Nebraska Center for Virology was established in 2000 as an NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence. It links scientists at UNL, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University who study the leading viral threats to people, animals and plants. Its discoveries could lead to new ways to treat or prevent diseases caused by HIV, herpes, hepatitis and other major viruses. The NCV has been a catalyst in building Nebraska's biomedical research capabilities. Public Health Service funding for research at UNL increased 306 percent from 2000 to 2008.

"The virology center is one of our most productive and promising research programs," said Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development. "Our faculty's success has created a continuing need for research space. It's a good problem to have but one that we need to address."

The university is making strides to ease the research space shortage campuswide, Paul said, but availability of high quality space continues to be a challenge for UNL's growing research programs. "This ARRA funding is hugely helpful," he said.

Charles Wood, professor, School of Biological Sciences and biochemistry, and director of the virology center, said the addition will provide "state-of-the-science" space necessary to pursue new research opportunities, recruit new faculty and students as well as more room for ongoing projects. Collaboration is a cornerstone of the center's research and the Morrison building was designed as a highly interactive space. By using a similar design approach, the addition will expand space for faculty, staff and students to interact and collaborate.

Twelve faculty along with their students, post-doctoral fellows and staff are housed in Morrison, Wood said, and two additional faculty are being recruited. The expansion will accommodate additional faculty, fellows and students.

"Our goal is to be an international leader in virology research that provides basic knowledge about viruses and strategies to treat and prevent major viral infectious diseases." Wood said. "This addition will give us the room we need to grow toward that goal."

The Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center is named for the Hastings, Neb., businessman and longtime UNL supporter who provided the lead gift for the original building's construction.