Towering above the skyline on the University of Missouri campus, two cranes assist workers who are building the NextGen Precision Health Institute. The facility near MU Health Care’s University Hospital will be the centerpiece of a wider effort that will impact the entire state.
Last summer, the University of Missouri system launched the NextGen Precision Health Initiative to harness the brainpower and resources of the system’s four universities and health system. The initiative prioritizes vascular, neurology and oncology research that addresses the leading causes of death to Missourians. The NextGen Institute will serve as an anchor to the initiative, providing a world-class facility and a network of interdisciplinary scholarship and research from throughout the flagship university.
The goals are to accelerate medical breakthroughs for patients in Missouri and beyond, increase collaboration between University of Missouri scholars and industry partners, attract research funding, generate jobs and train a new generation of researchers and clinicians.
“Great scholars deserve great spaces,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “That’s exactly what the NextGen Precision Health Institute will be — and yet it’s also so much more than a building. To us, this effort represents our commitment as one of America’s leading research universities to health care innovations that will transform communities across Missouri and beyond.”
The new structure will be a hub of activity on the Columbia campus. As William Fay, MD, watches the five-story, 265,000-square-foot building sprouting from a giant hole in the ground, he is excited about how the institute could help increase the university’s research capabilities when it opens in 2021.
“That’s going to be a critical factor for our recruitment and retention of excellent faculty members,” said Fay, the School of Medicine’s senior associate dean for research. “Facilities matter. They inspire us.”
Researchers and patients will benefit from a powerful new 7-Tesla MRI scanner made possible through the Alliance for Precision Health, a new partnership with Siemens Healthineers. The building will also include 32 wet labs, 12 integrated informatics spaces and a lab for tissue engineering and device fabrication.
“The environment will inspire us to work collaboratively,” Fay said. “The whole way that building is laid out will foster interactions and context collisions. I think it’s going to be huge in our recruitment. We’re overdue for that.
“But this is really more than a building — it’s an initiative. It’s more than our campus or our medical center. It’s our entire UM system, an extensive network of integrated scientists and other team members that are pushing forward our agenda in precision health.”
The precision medicine currently offered at MU Health Care is part of a bigger initiative to make health care as personalized and effective as possible. With the upcoming opening of the NextGen Precision Health Institute, our researchers and doctors will be able to better understand diseases and conditions as they relate to an individual’s genetics, lifestyle and environment. With that level of understanding and the resources offered at the NextGen Institute, MU Health Care will be able to take discoveries even further, developing treatment and prevention strategies that not only save and improve lives in Missouri, but also can be shared to help others across the globe.