UCSF to Mark Opening of Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building

By Robin Hindery

The opening of the five-story UCSF Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building at Mission Bay doubles the laboratory space in buildings dedicated to cancer research.

UCSF will celebrate the grand opening of the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building today with a keynote speech by renowned biologist J. Craig Venter, PhD, and a panel discussion by a group of prominent speakers, including UCSF’s next chancellor Susan Desmond Hellmann, MD, PhD.

Members of the campus community and the general public are invited to watch a portion of the program live via webcast at 2:30 p.m. PT, and to join the conversation about today’s events and the future of cancer research on Twitter.

The afternoon line-up kicks off at 1:30 p.m. PT with opening remarks and ribbon-cutting by UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD; Frank McCormick, PhD, director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center; Mitchel Berger, MD, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery and director of the Brain Tumor Research Center at UCSF; and Peter Carroll, MD, chair of the Department of Urology and director of strategic planning and clinical services for the cancer center.

At 2 p.m. PT, Venter, who in 2001 led the effort to sequence and publish the human genome, will give a keynote address titled “From Reading to Writing the Genetic Code.” Venter is the founder and president both of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a nonprofit genomic research organization, and of Synthetic Genomics, which develops and commercializes genomic-driven solutions to environmental and global energy challenges.

After his address, at 2:30 p.m. PT, Venter will join UCSF Chancellor-elect Susan Desmond-Hellmann, past president of product development at Genentech, and Brook Byers, senior partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, for a panel discussion on “Personalized Medicine and the New Vision for Cancer Research, Treatment and Prevention in the 21st Century.” The panel will be moderated by McCormick and will be streamed live on the web.

The opening of the new cancer research building at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus will help take the University’s scientific leadership in cancer to the next level, and will foster the collaboration and innovation that are vital to combating one of the world’s leading killers.

The Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, which opens its doors today, will enhance the already world-class UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center by doubling the existing laboratory space in buildings exclusively devoted to cancer research. Designed by award-winning architect Rafael Viñoly, the new cancer research building will be home to about 400 researchers when fully occupied.

“This is the manifestation of a vision our outstanding cancer specialists have been working toward for more than a decade,” said UCSF Chancellor Bishop. “Thanks to the generous support of Helen Diller, her family and many others, UCSF now has an expanded home for its integrated research and clinical cancer program, with the ability to contribute in a significant manner to advancing cancer care throughout the world.”

Pioneering Discoveries

UCSF has been a trailblazer in cancer care and research since the Cancer Research Institute was established on campus in 1948. In the 1970s, a discovery by Bishop and fellow cancer researcher Harold Varmus, MD, showed that the disease is caused by normal genes gone awry. This discovery led to a 1989 Nobel Prize for Bishop and Varmus—the University’s first.

Today, the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only cancer center in Northern California to hold the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious “comprehensive” designation. The center ranks first in California and seventh nationwide in National Cancer Institute research grants and is home to pioneers in research into genetic, cellular and immune-system causes and responses to cancer.

“The center has established a national reputation for its outstanding research in basic, clinical and population sciences, and for its culture of innovation and multidisciplinary interactions,” said Frank McCormick, PhD, director of the cancer center.

UCSF has the country’s largest brain tumor program, offering state-of-the-art research and treatment for both children and adults.

Thanks to the new research building, investigators from the Brain Tumor Research Center (BTRC), who work at other locations, will be able to operate under one roof.

“This is a monumental moment for us in the brain tumor research community,” said Mitchel Berger, MD, BTRC director. “The new building allows us to come together for the first time in our history to collaborate and accelerate our research goals.  We can expect to make tremendous progress because of this opportunity to all be together in this phenomenal space.”

The building, supporting UCSF’s overall commitment to cancer research, which is conducted in laboratories and clinics across many UCSF departments and facilities, will house researchers working on the entire gamut of modern cancer research—from cancer prevention, to the role of environmental factors and genes that contribute to cancer risk, to the search for new pharmacological, immunotherapy and gene therapy techniques for cancer treatment.

The five-story structure adds a new member to the team of biomedical innovators located in and around the Mission Bay campus, which now includes four UCSF research buildings.

In addition, the University’s Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) is under construction at Mission Bay, and the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay — scheduled to open in 2014 — will include a specialty hospital devoted entirely to cancer patients.

McCormick said he believes the new cancer research building is ideally positioned to “facilitate better interactions between cancer center members and Mission Bay scientists working in structural biology, drug design, model organisms, and many other critical research areas.”

That type of work environment, where clinicians and scientists intermingle and collaborate on a daily basis, is aimed at promoting the successful and swift translation of scientific discoveries into medical therapies – a top priority of UCSF’s first-ever strategic plan, unveiled in June 2007.

In addition, McCormick said, the space opened up at Mount Zion by researchers moving to Mission Bay will allow the cancer program to expand and strengthen its efforts in the emerging fields of personalized medicine and molecular oncology.

The Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building is already home to about 250 faculty and staff, and will welcome another 150 or so researchers over time.

Related Links:


Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Rafael Viñoly Architects