Washington University School of Medicine’s new, $616 million facility will provide a boost to researchers developing treatments for a wide range of neurological conditions.
The 11-story building in the Central West End now houses researchers who’d been scattered across several university buildings. The facility replaces 93 labs previously located across campus and adds 49 more.
Beyond the added capacity for research efforts, the Neuroscience Research Building is designed to bring together experts in adjacent fields to collaborate and share ideas.
University leaders describe it as the largest neuroscience research building in the country and one of the highest concentrations of neuroscientists in the world.
“It’s the largest project Washington University has ever done,” said David Perlmutter, dean of the School of Medicine.
The facility houses 120 research teams spread across more than 600,000 square feet.
“This allows us to bring together people who are doing different things in the area, who can collaborate with each other in a way that they haven't been able to before and to share resources and share equipment,” said Perlmutter, also the university’s executive vice chancellor for medical affairs.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are working to develop treatments for autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, brain tumors, sleep disorders, dementia and other neurological conditions. The school receives more funding for neurology research from the National Institutes of Health than any other in the country. Its neurology department received more than $103 million in fiscal year 2022, the last year for which figures are publicly available.
By bringing together experts with specialties in a wide variety of neurological fields, the new facility can spark unplanned moments of collaboration.
“The real magic of what happens in science doesn't happen with a lone researcher sitting by herself or by himself in a lab somewhere, trying to figure out a problem,” said Dr. Randall Bateman, who leads a 25-person team studying how Alzheimer’s disease progresses in a patient over time.
“The real action happens between us — the space between scientists, when we talk and we interact,” Bateman said. “We synergize. New ideas come up that would never come up with either one alone. It's that interaction, that's the secret sauce.”
Another goal is to work with nearby Cortex to develop commercial applications for the school’s research.
“One of the intentions of putting a massive research activity right next to Cortex is the intention that new technologies will come from that building and new companies will come from that building,” Perlmutter said.
The facility includes labs dedicated to work in seven research areas: neural systems and theory; psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics; pain and peripheral nervous system; circuits, neuroplasticity and behavior; neurodegeneration and neuroimmunology; brain tumor biology, and developmental brain disorders and neurogenomics.