The move goes on: Second UCSF Mission Bay research building filling up

By Wallace Ravven

Seven new neighborhoods—indoor neighborhoods—are taking shape at UCSF Mission Bay as scientists move into the second research building on the new 43-acre life sciences campus.

Ranging from human genetics and developmental biology to neurobiology, each neighborhood consists of four or five faculty scientists and their research teams of graduate students and postdocs.

“Faculty worked with architects to devise a layout that can stimulate research collaborations,” said Eugene Washington, MD, executive vice chancellor at UCSF. “These collaborations are part of the strength of UCSF.”

UCSF Mission Bay is the largest biomedical university research expansion in the country and it doubles research and teaching space for the University of California, San Francisco.

Much of the science in the new five-story Genetics, Development and Behavioral Sciences Building aims to unravel the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying behavior, embryonic development and vulnerability to disease.

The neighborhood research approach quickly proved to be productive in the first building to open on the Mission Bay campus. UCSF Genentech Hall, occupied since January 2003, has become home to 900 faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Now carts stacked with boxes are once again rolling into a Mission Bay building.  Inside, the new residents are adjusting laboratory research apparatus, stuffing bare niches with journals, books and personal gear, and setting up offices.

About half of the scientists and their labs have already moved in, and more than 20 groups will occupy the building by the time the move is completed in May. Space is also being set aside for new faculty expected to join UCSF soon and further accelerate the research pace.

At full capacity, the Genetics building will have a population of about 400 humans, more than 10,000 zebrafish and hundreds of thousands of fruit flies.

The current move has involved “the normal glitches of moving, along with some unusual challenges,” says Olivier Pieron, project manager of the new building.

Among the unusual challenges was the temperature preferences of many thousands of the inch-long zebrafish, natives of the Ganges River, which have become a valued animal model in studies of vertebrate biology. Three UCSF scientists and their labs rely on the blue-and-silver-striped fish in research ranging from studies of heart and neuron development to visual perception and behavior.

Temperatures in most rooms in the new building range from 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, Pieron says, but contented zebrafish require an ambient temperature of about 82 degrees.

“We had to modify the flow of hot water in ventilation system heating coils,” Pieron said. “We had some difficulty reaching the temperature that was needed, but we resolved it.”

Designed by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal winner Cesar Pelli, the $89 million Genetics building integrates modern building technology with traditional university architecture, including stone cladding, painted aluminum fins, a brightly lit atrium and exterior arcade.  Construction began in August 2001.

With two buildings open and several others in progress, the 43-acre UCSF
Mission Bay campus is well on its way.  Anchoring the center of the campus is
Koret Quad, a 3.2 acre green space that already is a popular gathering place for the campus community.

On the current horizon is the UCSF Mission Bay Campus Community Center, designed by world-famous Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, also an AIA Gold Medal winner.  Now under construction, it is scheduled to open in January 2005.  The center adds vibrant colors to the new campus and will be the hub of campus recreational activities, with some facilities open to both campus and the public.

Another construction project is the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, dubbed QB3.  It is scheduled to welcome scientists in February 2005. The building will support UCSF research teams and serve as the headquarters for QB3, a research partnership involving UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.  One of the California Institutes for Science and Innovation, QB3 brings together the expertise of the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics to tackle complex biological problems that require intensive computational approaches.

Also under construction is a housing complex for more than 750 students, postdoctoral scholars and their families. It is expected to be completed in May 2005.  The complex will include 431 apartments, retail space, and developed outdoor space. The campus will include two parking structures for 1,400 cars.

Groundbreaking for a fourth major research structure, the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, is anticipated in late fall 2004.  Designed by award-winning and acclaimed architect Rafael Vinoly, the facility will provide space to researchers at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center and enable a dramatic expansion of programs focused on cancers of the prostate, kidney and brain. It will also house the UCSF Cancer Research Institute, whose 15 major laboratories investigate the basic biological mechanisms of cancer.

Construction that is either completed, under way or soon to break ground makes up 60 percent of the total build-out anticipated for the new campus, with a cost of about $820 million.  At full build-out in about 15 years, the UCSF Mission Bay Campus will have 20 structures and an expected UCSF population of 9,100. The estimated cost of the completed campus is about $1.5 billion.

Adjacent to the UCSF Mission Bay Campus is a six-story building developed by the UCSF-affiliated J. David Gladstone Institutes, which carry out research in virology and immunology, neurological disease and cardiovascular disease. The building is in the final construction phase and is expected to be occupied in November 2004. It will include research and administrative space.