Amid smiles and handshakes, UNL on April 2 celebrated the completion of a new addition to the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center, home to the Nebraska Center for Virology.
Several dozen faculty, staff, students and visitors assembled in the new wing, north of the original 67,000-square-foot structure on UNL’s East Campus, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the new 30,000 square-foot addition.
The addition features seven new research labs, support facilities and offices, plus a seminar room with video-conferencing capabilities that can seat 150 people.
Charles Wood, Lewis Lehr/3M University Professor and director of the center, said the addition will provide a centralized facility with state-of-the-art equipment for analysis of many kinds of cells and tissues for research, not only for faculty in the center but for other on- and off-campus researchers. It also will enable the center to expand its research capacity by recruiting and adding up to six senior and junior faculty.
Chancellor Harvey Perlman said that such a facility would not be possible without the collaboration of many private and public partners. He said the support from Ken Morrison — the Hastings businessman, NU Foundation trustee and longtime UNL supporter who provided the lead private gift for the original building — allowed the university to leverage many competitive research grants in the last several years.
"This public-private partnership has resulted in a facility that is critical to our research university, the state of Nebraska and the welfare of our nation and world,” Perlman said.
Morrison and members of his family, as well as Vice Chancellor for Research Prem Paul and NU Regent Jim Pillen were on hand for the celebration.
In 2009, UNL was awarded $8 million from the National Institutes of Health to expand the center. The grant, from NIH's National Center for Research Resources, was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The original Morrison Center opened in 2008. The original $21 million research facility has housed most of the UNL virologists who are affiliated with the Nebraska Center for Virology, one of the university's signature research programs. Those faculty members worked at several locations across campus before moving into the new building.
The Nebraska Center for Virology was established in 2000 as an NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence. It links scientists at UNL, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University who study the leading viral threats to people, animals and plants.
The addition will also expand the university's capability to develop translational research programs with partnerships with industrial partners, Wood said. That could include vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
"We intend to be an international leader in virology research and, thanks to this facility, are well on our way,” Perlman said.