UC San Diego and BioMed Realty Partner to Open the Center for Novel Therapeutics
Destination for Collaboration: San Diego’s Center for Novel Therapeutics Brings Together Academia-Industry to Develop New Cancer Therapies
As the world’s second-leading cause of death, cancer is a major public health concern. In 2018, this vicious cluster of diseases claimed more than 9.5 million lives. By 2040, that figure is expected to exceed 16 million annually due to factors such as aging and population growth. Hence, cancer research is vital to preserving human life.
About a decade ago, two faculty members at UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center came together with a shared vision: create a facility that melds academic research and private-sector support to speed the delivery of life-saving cancer treatments. In September 2019, the brainchild of Thomas Kipps, M.D., Ph.D. and Dennis Carson, M.D. became reality with the grand opening of the Center for Novel Therapeutics (CNT), San Diego’s newest oncology research center.
Touted as a “destination for collaboration,” the 137,500-square-foot facility is located at the UC San Diego Science Research Park, a 30-acre site containing noteworthy institutions such as Kyowa Kirin Pharmaceutical Research, Inc. and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. The $92 million CNT building is owned by BioMed Realty, a Blackstone portfolio company and global real estate firm.
“The Center for Novel Therapeutics partnership with BioMed Realty is going to change the face of patient care by bringing new therapies from research to market more efficiently than ever before,” says UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. “These types of forward-thinking partnerships help UC San Diego move closer to its goal of becoming a preferred destination for students, researchers, patients and the community.”
A Home for Life Sciences
California is home to a robust life science industry. In 2018, this market sector provided nearly 1.3 million jobs and generated $346 billion in economic activity for the state, according to the Biocom Life Science Association of California. So, it makes sense to build the CNT in an area rich in academic researchers, health care institutions and life science and technology companies.
“Cancer research and treatment requires the talents and resources of multiple collaborators, including those beyond the university,” said Scott Lippman, M.D. in an April 2017 article published in La Jolla Light. “The CNT … brings together faculty entrepreneurs with bold ideas, experienced managers in fundraising and drug development and others who will be critical to the process and to ultimate success.”
Lippman, a distinguished professor and physician-scientist, serves as Director of the Moores Cancer Center, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. “Cancer is notorious for using every weapon it can muster to prevail,” he added. “The CNT will work on the same prevailing principle.”
Designed as a vibrant work, live and play environment, the campus has a full range of amenities – including conference centers for a variety of meeting needs; an atrium for industry events, large gatherings and lectures; a farm-to-table restaurant; and a modern fitness center. UC San Diego is leasing over 20 percent of the building, including space for Moores Cancer Center’s growing immunotherapy research and other vital programs.
Additionally, the CNT supports the formation, funding and growth of private biotech companies focused on cancer diagnostics, treatments and interventions. For entrepreneurs, the high-tech research hub offers an array of technology commercialization resources, including incubator space with fully equipped wet and dry laboratories, along with path-breaking programs that nurture and sustain new technology businesses. This facility will also be used to train students and postdoctoral fellows in drug discovery and create shared resources and learning forums for academic and private-sector scientists.
Building a World-Class Research Space
Perkins & Will, an interdisciplinary architecture and design firm with an international team of more than 2,700 professionals and over 20 studios worldwide, led the design of this world-class facility. The general contractor, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. (McCarthy), is one of America’s oldest, largest and most diversified commercial construction firms. Other key project players included Hope-Amundson (structural engineering), Latitude 33 Planning & Engineering (civil engineering), EXP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering) and LandLAB (landscape architect).
All major construction activities took place between May 2017 and February 2019, which is when substantial completion was achieved. Before the building could be erected, the project team tackled its first major obstacle: remediating lead-contaminated soils at the site, a former gunnery range used by the U.S. Marine Corps between 1918 and 1964.
“Lead from the spent ammunition caused soils testing to result in high lead values in certain areas as compared to the legal limits within California. The areas with high concentrations of lead had to be abated prior to construction,” explains McCarthy Project Director Erik Hoffman. “After working with UC San Diego, BioMed Realty and Sierra Pacific West (an earthwork and grading subcontractor), we were able to come up with the solution of trucking the lead-bearing soil out of state to a location where it falls within the federal limits for the amount of lead in the soil.”
According to Hoffman, each level of the three-story structure has a unique function. “The first level contains an accelerator space where smaller companies can come to start on a smaller scale and still collaborate with UC San Diego. There is also an atrium for gatherings, a café/dining area, a conference center and a fitness center. The second and third levels have tenant labs and office spaces,” he says. In addition, there is an underground level containing a 50-space parking garage, a small animal vivarium and mechanical areas.
The modern facility is centered around a spacious three-story atrium featuring two cantilevered conference rooms, two bridges and a stunning skylight roof with building-integrated photovoltaic glass fabricated by Onyx Solar and installed by Architectural Glass & Aluminum. Besides allowing natural light to brighten the center lobby, the amorphous silicon low-emission glass protects against ultraviolet rays and infrared radiation and generates clean, free power for the building.
“With cantilevered conference room pods and plenty of beautiful common spaces, occupants can meet and congregate within the building while still getting some sense of the outdoors,” Hoffman notes.
One of the most noteworthy architectural elements is a gravity-defying cantilevered staircase. This cast-in-place concrete structure rises two stories and is completely self-supported with extensive reinforcement. “Nobody on our team had ever done something quite like it,” Hoffman says. “Everything from how to form it, to coordinating the tread attachment and the tolerances of the radius glass rail, took some effort. Ultimately, through a lot of teamwork and some innovation, we were able to pull it off. It turned out to be a great feature that acts as a main focal point.”
The project also features cast-in-place architectural concrete, which is exposed and showcased throughout the building’s interior walls, columns, walkways, soffits and ceilings. Large wood timbers tie together with the white concrete, wood ceilings and glass to create a beautifully open aesthetic.
Hoffman adds, “Large portions of the facade are cast in white Type 1L concrete, giving an almost stone-like look while tying it to the architecture found on other parts of the UC San Diego campus.” The specific cement used, however, had a relatively high heat of hydration, making it harden faster than desirable for the architectural concrete wall pours. As a solution, the general contractor recommended concrete pours during cooler nighttime hours to slow the hardening process.
“Initially, the university was concerned the concrete pours would be too loud and might disrupt the students in the dorms next door. So, we worked with CEMEX to replace the backup alarms on all the concrete trucks to make them less intrusive than the beeping you often hear,” Hoffman says. “We also reviewed new quiet work procedures with all the crews. Then we set up sound-monitoring equipment and 360-degree view cameras to monitor the ambient noise and surrounding conditions to make sure we weren’t too loud. Ultimately, we received buy-off from the campus to pour early in the mornings – and all our pours were accomplished without a single complaint from the neighbors.”
A Focus on Sustainability
This forward-thinking project also contains a variety of sustainability elements, resulting in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Examples of these “green building” features include: high-efficiency heating and cooling; dimmable LED light fixtures; a lighting control system with occupancy sensors; solar shading; a rooftop solar energy system; low-flow plumbing fixtures; drought-tolerant landscaping; and electric vehicle charging stations in parking lots.
McCarthy, which has constructed a total $7.6 billion in green construction projects, also specializes in the life science sector. In the past four decades, the general contracting firm has completed more than a dozen life science developments in Southern California alone. For the monumental CNT project, it made perfect sense to weave green building practices into the design and construction scheme.
“With deep experience and passion for the life science space, our skilled project team, along with our dedicated partners, take great pride in bringing this state-of-the art facility to completion,” says Robert Betz, McCarthy’s Executive Vice President. “McCarthy’s hope is that the Center for Novel Therapeutics will facilitate groundbreaking research in the oncology field for years to come.”