|Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP,
The John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean
In 1812, Davidge Hall was constructed for medical
student instruction, and the medical school revolved around that single building
for many years. As the campus grew over time, more buildings were added and
the medical school morphed into the University of Maryland system. Today
the University of Maryland, Baltimore comprises a 50-acre campus. Most of
the growth, however, has been east toward downtown. But now, for the first
time in nearly 200 years, the University of Maryland has crossed the great
divide known as Martin Luther King Boulevard.
In January, the University of Maryland broke ground on a new biotechnology research
development project called the UMB BioPark. The park will be situated on nearly
five acres of unoccupied land west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and will
contain 800,000 square feet of space for research labs, offices and parking.
The university also plans to incorporate a business incubator and a collaboration
center, which means that researchers from the schools of medicine, pharmacy and
dentistry will work side-by-side with private biopharmaceutical and life sciences
companies in the commercialization of bioscience innovations.
The BioPark’s first medical school occupants will be a team of 23 scientists
from the American Red Cross who joined our faculty this summer. This is the largest
single recruitment in the history of this medical school; it will result in more
than $10 million additional annual NIH funding to the School of Medicine and
the campus. The 15 fully-funded senior faculty members and eight junior faculty
members will be supported by a staff of 60 laboratory workers and administrators.
Formerly known as the Discovery Research Group, the researchers
come from the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences in Rockville,
Maryland—the Red Cross’ primary research facility. The group, which includes
experts in stem cell research, vascular biology, biochemistry, microbiology,
immunology, and experimental pathology, will form the basis for a planned organized
research center focusing on vascular and inflammatory diseases.
The research is focused on finding new treatments for heart disease, stroke,
cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The capability
to conduct stem
cell research is but one of the many strengths the team will bring to the medical
school. For example, biochemists on the team are investigating the proteins involved
in blood clotting, in order to develop new treatments for hemophiliacs. Immunologists
are exploring the immune response in transplantation and gene therapy, and vascular
biologists in the group are studying angiogenesis, the formation of new blood
vessels, in an attempt to find ways to selectively compromise the blood supply
in certain cancers. And this is just one of many exciting new tenants in the
The university partnered with the Poppleton community, which inhabits the land
west of MLK Boulevard, to build support for this biotech park. The benefits to
the community include the creation of more than 3,000 jobs, each averaging $45,000
in annual salary, and an increase in property values. In addition, the BioPark
will include pedestrian walkways, green space, and shops, all of which
are important quality of life issues.
It is my hope that this is only the first of many projects that reach across
“the boulevard” and strengthen not only our research enterprise, but also our
relationships with the community.