The College of Pharmacy's Skaggs Building will soon be the site of $26 million worth of additions and renovations that could improve drug research capabilities at the University of Arizona. The project received approval from the Arizona Board of Regents during their most recent meeting on Feb. 9.
The Arizona Board of Regents business and finance committee previously reviewed the project at their Jan. 25 meeting and recommended forwarding the item to the full board for approval.
The project will consist of constructing 21,000 square feet of new space, adding labs specifically designed for chemistry, and renovating 12,000 square feet of existing space.
The new space is intended to facilitate the process of drug discovery at the UA. New personnel will be hired to help promote this process.
“Space is needed because I can't hire more people who do drug discovery unless ... I have chemistry space,” said Dr. Rick Schnellmann, dean of the College of Pharmacy. “You can't get to part B if you don’t have part A.”
The push for drug discovery comes from changes occurring within the pharmaceutical industry. Large companies are beginning to look toward academic institutions to help revitalize the process of discovering and developing new drugs.
“As a student, having more chemistry labs with the purpose of furthering drug discovery is an exciting development,” said Timothy Celaya, a third year pharmacy student.
“Having a strong emphasis and infrastructure for drug research and discovery could open up possible career paths into pharmacy industry, which is something I have been considering looking into ... It would be really cool to see the College of Pharmacy produce a novel drug that improves a patient's health.”
The project is expected to cost $26 million dollars, or $788 per gross square foot. Of this, $6 million dollars of funding will come from gifts, $10 million from UA Health Sciences funds, and $10 million from the ALSAM Foundation.
The ALSAM Foundation is a Utah-based nonprofit founded by the Skaggs family that primarily grants funds for issues regarding education and medical research.
This is not the foundation’s first financial contribution to the UA College of Pharmacy. They helped to finance the original construction of the building in the 1980’s and granted a $1.25 million to the college in 2016.
The project will have no impact on the University’s debt ratio.
The project was initially estimated to cost $31.5 million. After reviewing the plan with architects, the projected cost was updated to its current figure of $26 million.
“What we really did with this new design, we only looked at things that were mission critical, that we absolutely needed to have,” Schnellmann said. “And so that kept it nice and lean and focused.”
Construction on the new addition is anticipated to begin in spring 2018. Renovation on the existing areas is expected to begin in summer 2019.
“We’re trying very hard to start in April,” Schnellmann said. “Gotta go, go, go!”
Follow Vanessa Ontiveros on Twitter