Date October 24, 2022
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Major public-private life sciences development breaks ground in Providence’s Jewelry District

Brown University was celebrated as a key partner and life sciences leader by state, federal officials during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new public health lab building, which will also house University and commercial lab space.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — To celebrate the groundbreaking for a 212,000-square-foot building that will house a new state health lab, life sciences labs for Brown University, and additional biotechnology space on former I-195 land, Brown officials joined Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, the state’s entire congressional delegation and a packed lineup of government, health and medicine leaders on Monday, Oct. 24.

Dr. Megan Ranney, deputy dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, represented the University, noting the importance of the new space in helping Brown and other researchers to tackle “the challenges of illness, aging, biology, cancer, addiction, firearm violence and public health.”

And elected leaders including U.S. Rep. David Cicilline underscored the importance of investing in the life sciences to advance high-impact biomedical and public health research, while also spurring the economic vitality of Providence. Cicilline noted Brown’s long track record of investment in the city and the University’s integral contributions to the redevelopment of Providence’s Jewelry District, through projects including South Street Landing, the Innovation Center at 225 Dyer St. and a planned integrated life sciences building.

“When I was first elected mayor [in 2003], we were starting to talk about the opportunities that this 195 land would present in terms of the dynamism and the economic development that would come,” Cicilline said. “The partnership with Brown University has allowed that to happen at a really accelerated pace…  [This project] is going to ensure the people who are in this facility — the great academics, researchers and innovators — are going to have state-of-the-art facilities to develop the new treatments and the new materials and the new methodologies that are going to help improve the health and well-being of the citizens of our state.”

Rain held off as groundbreaking attendees convened under a tent on a grassy lot at the intersection of Clifford and Richmond streets, where the future seven-story building will house the Rhode Island Department of Health State Health Laboratories as the anchor tenant with 80,000 square feet of space to accommodate biological and chemical testing for a variety of infectious disease, environmental and forensic testing services.

To help attract additional tenants and encourage a thriving mix of public and private entities focused on health and medicine, Brown signed a letter of intent to lease 20,000 square feet of laboratory space in the building for a period of 10 years — one of many examples of Brown’s “enormous role in driving the renaissance in this community by their thoughtful and large-scale investments,” said Josh Parker, CEO of project developer Ancora L&G during Monday’s event.

Brown President Christina H. Paxson said before the event that the University will continue to prioritize investments related to life sciences research and economic activity, especially when Brown’s participation can help to incentivize investments from new partners seeking a presence in Rhode Island.

“When we can fulfill our academic needs for additional space to advance high-impact research, and at the same time spark investments from new commercial partners, we see benefits not just for Brown, but also for the economic vitality of Providence and Rhode Island,” Paxson said. “We are excited to see this latest joint effort between state and federal leaders, Ancora L&G and Brown bring RIDOH to the Jewelry District. This new life sciences development is an ideal illustration of how we can have a bigger impact together than any one of us could have individually.”

The same day as the groundbreaking, Brown released a final Operational Plan for Investing in Research to propel research across all fields of study to new levels of excellence over the next five to seven years. In remarks at the event, U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin pointed to the plan, noting that Brown is an “economic engine for our state.”

“This new project will also create life sciences labs for Brown University and add additional biotechnology space, turbo-charging Rhode Island’s fast-growing life sciences industry and creating good, paying jobs,” Langevin said.

This is really important — it is important as a new state-of-the-art state facility that the state has badly needed. It is important as a partnership with Brown University, which we’re thrilled about.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Sheldon Whitehouse addresses the audience

RIDOH Interim Director Dr. Utpala Bandy described labs as “the backbone of the public health system,” and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse hailed the sweeping benefits of the project — for which he, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Langevin and Cicilline helped to secure $81.7 million in U.S. Centers for Disease Control funding for its state laboratory portion.

“This is really important — it is important as a new state-of-the-art state facility that the state has badly needed,” Whitehouse said. “It is important as a partnership with Brown University, which we’re thrilled about. It is important as a launchpad for the biotech industry in the state. And it is important as an investment in our capital city.

“We’re four for four,” he quipped.

Given the importance of the funding her agency provided, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky was slated to participate in the groundbreaking but was unable to attend, due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, Reed said during his remarks.

Officials noted Brown’s substantial amount of academic activity relevant to the mission of RIDOH located near the new development, including education and research at the Warren Alpert Medical School, Laboratories for Molecular Medicine and School of Public Health. They also made clear the collaborative impact of the project and its potential to advance research that will benefit communities locally, nationally and globally.

“This location will become a true hub for life sciences and biotechnology — a place where world-shaping breakthroughs can happen,” R.I. State Sen. Joshua Miller said. “Thanks to Brown University’s involvement, this space will also help draw talent from across the world to our state and prepare them to become innovators in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Before the ceremonial shoveling of dirt to officially launch the project, Ranney closed out the speaking program. She extolled the impact of the public-private partnership that will welcome a thriving community of life science researchers and physicians to the building.

“For Brown, this project is also another example of the University partnering in a commercial tax-paying development that has immediate and long-term positive economic impact for Providence and Rhode Island,” Ranney said. “Together, we will continue to make improvements in medicine, health care, and community and population health for all of Rhode Island, the nation and the world.”