COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri celebrated the grand opening of the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building. Located on MU’s campus, the $221 million, 265,000-square-foot facility will be a regional hub of lifesaving research and anchor the NextGen Precision Health initiative.
“NextGen is the most ambitious research initiative in our university’s more than 180-year history,” said Darryl Chatman, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. “This state-of-the-art facility on our flagship campus in Columbia hosts the advanced tools and facilitates the collaboration researchers need to make discoveries that will transform health care and save lives around the world.”
The initiative leverages the combined power of MU, the MU Research Reactor, MU Health Care and the other three UM System universities to revolutionize health care, eliminate health care disparities and transform community health. The initiative also brings together an exceptional set of resources, leading industry partners and internationally recruited research faculty to drastically shorten the time it takes for innovations to go from the lab to clinical treatment.
“This is a transformative moment for the University of Missouri,” said Mun Choi, University of Missouri president. “This is our highest priority because we want to improve the lives of Missourians and others around the world. With the opening of NextGen, we now have all the crucial elements to accelerate discovery and even better fulfill our mission of research, education and service to Missouri.”
University leaders were joined by local, state and national supporters of NextGen, including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. In September, the University of Missouri Board of Curators announced the new building would be named in honor of Blunt in recognition of his longtime support of the University of Missouri and higher education.
“We’re proud to have this world-class facility in the heart of Missouri,” Blunt said. “NextGen will have an estimated $5.6 billion impact on our state’s economy over the next 25 years, create local jobs in high-demand industries and — most importantly — provide personalized care to Missourians and cement our place as a leader in biomedical research.”
The building will also serve as a vital tool to prepare students for careers in rapidly developing scientific disciplines. Rebecca Shyu, a senior computer science major at MU, will use NextGen resources to supercharge her work with telemedicine.
“Research has served as my path to understanding the world and seeking out modern solutions to societal issues,” Shyu said. “This aligns perfectly with the NextGen Precision Health initiative and its commitment to eliminate health care disparities. Ultimately, it focuses on improving the quality of life of Missourians.”
NextGen researchers are charged with finding solutions to some of the most urgent challenges in health care, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease and infectious diseases, among others. To reach their ambitious goals, NextGen researchers have access to a range of sophisticated equipment and spaces designed for multidisciplinary collaboration. One example is an advanced imaging facility developed in collaboration with Siemens Healthineers, which is now home to the most powerful MRI scanner in Missouri.
“Precision medicine allows health care providers to develop treatments tailored to fit each person,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. “Facilities like NextGen are helping researchers build a personalized approach to medicine, while also addressing underlying issues faced by all communities.”
NextGen also has space dedicated to data analytics, scientific “clean rooms,” powerful electron microscopes to better study diseases, a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility for pilot-scale manufacturing, and an open laboratory concept that can adapt to the evolving needs of research teams. The building is one of only a few places in the country with these resources under the same roof and available for research and multidisciplinary use.
“We have exceptional partners in elected officials, corporate partners, donors and alumni who united around this vision of the extraordinary things we can achieve,” said Richard J. Barohn, executive director of NextGen Precision Health and executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “Thanks to their support and the leadership of our Board of Curators and President Choi, we have a facility on Mizzou’s campus that will make a difference in the lives of people in Missouri and around the globe.”
— University of Missouri