August 19-25, 2000

Academics Wary, But Corporate Partners Fill Gap

Biotech: UCSD Set to Open $37M Bioengineering Hall

By MARION WEBB, Senior Staff Writer

UCSD bioengineering scientists and students will make their way into a new $37 million privately funded building this fall and work with corporate partners to convert their findings into applicable products, said the chair of the bioengineering department.

The new 109,076-square-foot Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall on the UCSD campus in La Jolla, which will open in November, was funded by a $17.2 million gift from the Whitaker Foundation, an $8 million gift from the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, and a $12 million gift from the William J. von Liebig Foundation, among others.

Fourteen faculty professors, 60 scientists and 100 graduate students will spearhead the research effort, said Shu Chien, chair of the department of bioengineering at UCSD.

Chien described bioengineering as a cross discipline between medicine, engineering and biology bringing together scientists from such diverse backgrounds as molecular biology, chemistry and genetics.

The Department of Bioengineering currently receives more than $12 million in annual research dollars, of which nearly $10 million comes from the National Institutes of Health.

But the department also uses private funds to accelerate the commercialization of new findings, Chien said.

Bioengineering, he said, is a discipline that aims to develop “something that improves the health and quality of life of people — it starts with the fundamental knowledge and ends with its application.”

The Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement, which will be housed in the new facility, is a program designed to speed the process of translating basic research for industrial or clinical use.

The increase of private research dollars at universities remains a somewhat controversial issue for many university researchers who see their role in the pursuit of knowledge, not revenue. Others find that industry dollars fill the gap left by a shrinking pool of government funds made available for biomedical research.

Chien said foresees more partnerships between the department of bioengineering and industry members in an effort to help speed up the development of new drugs and medical devices that people want and need.

Reprint Courtesy the San Diego Business Journal

© 2002 San Diego Business Journal