A Celebration of the Life Sciences at Syracuse University

October 17, 2008

A Celebration of the Life Sciences at Syracuse University

Monday, October 13, 2008

Syracuse University will dedicate its new Life Sciences Complex with a series of events on Nov. 6 and 7, including a keynote address by one of the nation’s foremost scientists—J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in decoding the human genome. The 230,000-square-foot facility positions SU at the forefront of the revolutionary changes that are taking place across the nation in teaching and research in the life sciences, sparked by the unraveling of the human genetic code. All of the life sciences celebration events listed below are free and open to the public.

“This is one of the most exciting periods for the life sciences in the state of New York and the nation,” says George Langford, dean of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “The addition of the Life Sciences Complex at Syracuse University provides state-of-the-art facilities for cutting-edge research and teaching in biomedicine, biotechnology, biomaterials and bio-energy. Advancements in these fields of the biological sciences will depend heavily on the integration of biology with the physical, quantitative and computational sciences. SU’s Life Sciences Complex was designed to facilitate the integration of the sciences and build collaborations between basic scientists and industrial partners to shorten the time from new knowledge generation to innovation. This is an exciting time for Syracuse University.”

Geneticist Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project at National Geographic will set the tone for the two-day celebration with his presentation “Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project,” Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Life Sciences Complex Auditorium (Room 001). The lecture is presented by Syracuse Symposium 2008 and the Department of Biology in The College of Arts and Sciences in celebration of the dedication of the Life Sciences Complex. Parking is available for $3.50 in the Booth Garage (garage closes at 10 p.m.).

The celebration will continue on Friday, Nov. 7, with the following activities:

  • 10 a.m.–12:15 p.m.: Tours and demonstrations in the Life Sciences Complex. The demonstrations will highlight the research of SU’s leading biologists and chemists, as well as the work of students in both the teaching and research laboratories. Registration information is available on the Web at http://thecollege.syr.edu.
  • 2 p.m.: Keynote address by J. Craig Venter in the Life Sciences Complex Auditorium (Room 001). Recently named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquiremagazine, Venter is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI), a not-for-profit research institute dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics.
  • 3:30 p.m.: Building dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony in the Life Sciences Complex Milton Atrium. The event will be moderated by Dean Langford and feature presentations by Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor, Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina and state Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli, who was instrumental in securing a $5 million New York State grant for the RESTORE Center for Environmental Biotechnology for the Life Sciences Complex.
  • 4:15 p.m.: Dedication reception and building tours.

About the Life Sciences Complex

The $107 million Life Sciences Complex is the largest building project in SU history. Designed by Ellenzweig Associates of Cambridge, Mass., the building’s architecture reflects the collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches that characterize teaching and research in 21st-century life sciences. The complex is a vital instructional facility, a major research center, a training ground for future scientists and a place of discovery for all who enter.

Among the building’s highlights is the RESTORE Center for Environmental Biotechnology. The center encompasses high-tech teaching and research support facilities that faculty researchers and students will use to study how organisms interact with their environments. The center will also promote collaborations between researchers and professionals from Central New York biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, and provide highly qualified graduates to fill needed positions in these companies.

“I’m proud to have secured a $5 million New York State Assembly grant for this project,” Magnarelli says. “The RESTORE Center for Environmental Biotechnology will promote job growth and economic development by increasing the amount of research that can be done partnered with local businesses and shared with area biotechnology or biopharmaceutical companies. The students involved in the research will be able to help implement new and innovative ideas about protecting and restoring our environment.”

Other building highlights include the $6 million Milton Atrium, which connects the Life Sciences Complex to the Center for Science and Technology. The atrium was made possible by a generous gift from SU alumni Jack and Laura Milton, both from the Class of 1951. Jack Milton is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. The six-story Life Sciences Complex has two wings in an “L”-shaped configuration. The research wing houses biology research laboratories, conference rooms and faculty offices. The teaching wing includes biochemistry, biology and chemistry teaching labs, lecture halls and research greenhouses.

About J. Craig Venter

For more than two decades, Venter and his research teams have been pioneers in genomic research. In 1998, he and his former company, Celera Genomics, raced with the National Institutes of Health to decode the human genome. Venter used an accelerated genome sequencing process developed at his Maryland-based Institute for Genomic Research. The celebrated contest was declared a tie in late 2000, and the first human genome was published in February 2001. In 2007, Venter and his team published the first sequence of the human genome for both chromosome pairs of a single individual. The earlier versions of the human genome are a mosaic of DNA sequences from various donors. Venter is the sole donor for the new genome sequence.

Venter was recently appointed visiting scholar in Harvard University’s Origins of Life Initiative, an interdisciplinary center established to study everything from planet formation and detection to the origin and early evolution of life. His autobiography, “A Life Decoded: My Genome, My Life” (Viking), was published in October 2007. Over the past three years, Venter and his teams developed the first synthetic bacterial genome and a methodology to transplant chromosomes, which enables researchers to transform one type of bacteria into another. The next step in this synthetic biology research, Venter says, is to create the first synthetic living organism.

Venter’s teams are also working to create a large-scale catalog of all the genes on Earth, the first step of which was to apply Venter’s rapid genome sequencing process to a search for new microscopic ocean species. A three-year global ocean sampling expedition yielded the discovery of more than six million new genes and thousands of microscopic species.

Further information about the Life Sciences Complex and the Dedication Celebration is available on the Web.