High tech research at Arizona State University is getting a serious fuel injection

High tech research at Arizona State University is getting a serious fuel injection

October 19, 2016

  • Dig in!  Dignitaries shovel dirt at gala event for Biodesign C

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  • President Michael Crow delivers opening remarks at groundbreaking event

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  • Crowd assembles on picture perfect Arizona day to kick off Biodesign C

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  • Back to reality: Visitor gets the virtual reality tour of Biodesign's new state-of-the-art facility. 

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October 19, 2016

The university has started construction on a new state-of-the-art facility poised to expand ASU’s research capacity and capabilities.  

On Tuesday the university held a celebratory groundbreaking for Biodesign C, the new facility which will become a part of the greater Biodesign complex. Scientists engineers architects, and scholars alike, gathered in the shade of the construction site to hear about what this exciting new facility will offer.

In attendance was ASU President Michael Crow, who spoke briefly on the vision behind Biodesign C.

“This the evolution of a fantastic new way to be creative,” Crow said. “This is a fantastic facility, a fantastic moment for Arizona, and an opportunity for Arizona to move forward as a leading center for science, technology and the laying down of the future.”

Of the new additions to come with Biodesign C, two in particular stand out. They are the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, and the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery. Both promise exciting new developments once up and running.

The neurodegenerative center is accelerating research into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s aging and dementia. As populations age in the U.S. and across the world, our ability to understand and treat these diseases becomes increasingly important. Since the Banner partnership began the center has made impressive strides in understanding how these diseases work.

Buried underground in Biodesign C’s basement will sit a cutting edge super laser, powerful enough to look inside a protein. It is a new X-ray technology called the “compact X-ray free-electron laser.” This is the stuff of the Center for Applied Structural Discovery.

“We will be getting X-rays that are a million times more powerful than the ones you get at your doctor. This let’s us look at molecules, atoms, how viruses work and how drugs attach to proteins,” said Bill Graves, associate professor, Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery.

The laser will be the first of its kind in terms of size, about 30 feet in all. Anything comparable in capability that currently exists is about the size of a football field. With this experimental technology right beneath their feet, researchers will be able to unlock the causes of disease and better identify effective treatments tailored for individual patients.

Biodesign C will serve as a workhorse in the Biodesign complex. At 188,000 square feet, much of the new building will be dedicated solely to research. It will house researchers from multiple organizations on campus including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and of course, the Biodesign Institute. It will be a truly interdisciplinary environment.

The architects wanted to design a workplace that drives cooperation and collaboration between researchers from different fields. They designed the building around a “neighborhoods” model that encourages interaction between researchers while still offering privacy, through a creative use of space.    

“The ‘neighborhood’ creates a kind of hybrid. It is an open lab in the sense that multiple research groups are accommodated, but it is not wide open, scaleless and impersonal,” said architect Gary Cabo, Principal at Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects​. “It gives you the possibility to put like research together.”

ASU plans to open the building in spring 2018. The facility has the capacity to house as many as 80 lead researchers and 400 support staff.

Biodesign C will help the university expand its research enterprise and attract top-of-the-line researchers both nationwide and globally.




Written by: Gavin Maxwell