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Rendering of Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall.
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August 9, 2000

Media Contact: Troy Anderson, (858) 822-3075 or
Denine Hagen (858) 534-2920, or


The University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering broke ground August 9 for the Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall, a five-story 105,000 square foot facility. The building is designed to promote an environment in which research, education, and technology transfer are intimately linked. With its modern facilities, this building will enable faculty and students to pursue innovative, cutting-edge research and apply emerging technologies to advance our understanding, treatment, and prevention of human disease. Unique features include core technology laboratories to foster collaboration across all engineering and biomedical disciplines, state-of-the-art teaching laboratories for hands-on education, and facilities and programs to facilitate technology transfer.

The Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall, which is named in honor of the late San Diego Superior Court Judge James L. Focht and the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, is the first academic facility on the UCSD campus funded almost entirely by private gifts. This building was made possible by the Whitaker Foundation's Leadership Award of $18.2 million and the Charles Lee Powell Foundation's gift of $8 million, as well as many other generous contributions. It marks the birth of a dynamic new scientific complex for the Jacobs School of Engineering, located on the university's Warren College campus, which will eventually include three additional buildings. The Jacobs School is already in the planning stages for a state-funded computer science building.

The Powell-Focht Hall will be completed in 2002 and will help accommodate growth and a new vision in the Department of Bioengineering. Over the next five to seven years, the Jacobs School will add eight new faculty, nearly doubling the size of the Department.

"Bioengineering holds tremendous promise for creating the medical advances of the future," said Robert Conn, dean of the Jacobs School. "UCSD leads the nation in this important interdisciplinary field. With the growth of the department and the new building, we can continue to enhance the program and lead the field of bioengineering into the 21st century."

Bioengineering is a fairly young scientific discipline that applies engineering principles and technologies to develop innovative ways to diagnose, treat and prevent human disease.

UCSD's bioengineering department has created a vision for how to realize the full potential that the discipline will have in advancing medicine.

"We're taking an integrative approach. Everything is interconnected, from the function of a single gene to the action of a cluster of cells in the tissue, and finally to the operation of the entire organ," said David Gough, chair of the department. "By understanding each of these levels, and then integrating them so that we see how the action of a single gene impacts the function of the whole organ, we can develop a new body of knowledge for diagnosing and treating disease."

The faculty will continue to focus on the cardiovascular system and problems of heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they will work on treatments for aging or injury to bones, ligament, cartilage and muscle, liver disease, cancer and immune system problems such as drug resistant bacteria. They are also focusing on bioinformatics, an area of study that uses high performance computing to synthesize and organize biological data.

"Other concepts behind the department's vision of integrative bioengineering are to integrate engineering and biomedical sciences and to integrate research, education, and technology; from basic principles to practical applications." said Shu Chien, professor of bioengineering, principal investigator of the Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award, and director of the Whitaker Institute for Biomedical Engineering at UCSD. "The faculty are using emerging technologies such as high performance computing, nanotechnology, and biofabrication to conduct innovative research and to enhance the education program. The aim is to train biomedical engineers who can masterfully apply state-of-the-art biotechnology techniques and cutting-edge engineering advances to generate new ideas and translate them into practical products."

In order to support this strategy, the Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall will be equipped for the most modern form of bioengineering. Designed by Anshen & Allen of Los Angeles, the building will include five shared core technology facilities including nanotechnology, information technology, in vivo technology, biotechnology, and biofabrication. It will also include instructional design laboratories allowing faculty to incorporate hands-on education into the curriculum.

The building has been designed to cohesively mesh with the two existing engineering buildings in terms of color and form, and also to fit seamlessly with future development. The north side of the building, which faces the courtyard of the new engineering mall, will incorporate natural stone, instead of the pre-cast concrete found on the majority of the structure, to reflect the more rustic mood of the courtyard. The centerpiece of the building will be the beautiful, 150-person capacity Fung Lecture Hall (named in honor of Professor Y.C. Fung who was a founder of the UCSD Bioengineering program) equipped with state-of-the-art electronics to enable interactive video conferencing. There will also be a library named in honor of the late Professor Benjamin Zweifach.

Speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony on August 9 included Robert C. Dynes, Chancellor of UCSD; David Gough, Professor and Chair of Bioengineering; Shu Chien, Professor and Director of the Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering; Wendy Baldwin, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health and Chair of the Bioengineering Consortium (BENCON); Robert Conn, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering; Duane Roth, CEO of Alliance Pharmaceuticals (representing the UCSD Foundation), Joel Holliday, president of the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, and Peter Katona, president of the Whitaker Foundation.

The ceremony was preceded by a Colloquium on Perspectives in Bioengineering. Wendy Baldwin, Duane Roth and Shu Chien spoke at the Colloquium on perspectives from the views of government, industry, and academia, respectively.

Following the formal ceremony, the 350 attendees donned commemorative yellow T-shirts and formed a human outline of the building while the platform party grabbed shovels and broke the first ground.

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