Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ragon Institute moves to state-of-the-art facility in Cambridge

View photos of the Ragon Institute on Flickr 

The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard announced the opening of a new state-of-the-art research facility in Cambridge. Through the generous philanthropic support of Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon, the new facility takes on a dual mission: to contribute to the accelerated discovery of an HIV/AIDS vaccine and subsequently to establish itself as a world leader in the collaborative study of immunology to combat other infectious diseases.

While a virtual institute in some respects due to collaborations with scientists, physicians, investigators, mathematicians, engineers and medical institutes worldwide, the new physical “home” for the Ragon Institute is 400 Technology Square in Kendall Square. National health care leaders, including Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gathered March 11 at the site to tour and celebrate its dedication.

“This has been the most exhilarating period of my entire career,” said Bruce Walker, MD, an MGH physician-investigator who is director of the Ragon Institute. “The people who we’ve met and the people who I want to acknowledge tonight are

the scientists who are actually doing the work, the people who have come from mathematics, physics, biology, life sciences and economics who are coming together with their different toolboxes to help work on this problem. We’re not there yet – we have a long way to go, but we have a facility now that will allow us to go at a much quicker rate.”

The 75,000-square-foot facility includes a 2,240-square-foot biosafety level-3 (BL-3) laboratory, dedicated to critical research into tuberculosis – a disease that each year affects millions around the world, particularly in developing countries. The BL-3 facility features sophisticated equipment for imaging and sorting housed within the containment environment, opening new avenues of investigation previously unavailable to scientists in Greater Boston.

 “In just four short years since the Ragons made their gift to support Bruce Walker’s work, there are now dozens of new collaborations with scientists not previously involved with HIV work. These include physicists, mathematicians and engineers – all focused on finding a vaccine that will effectively combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president.

Also housed in the new facility are the Mark and Lisa Schwartz Auditorium, which seats 175 individuals and has full media capabilities; 10 conference rooms; three floors of lab and office space; a vivarium for plants and animals; and grant administrator and office management offices. The Ragon Institute has been working closely with the city of Cambridge and the various regulatory agencies throughout the approval process and are hopeful that the facility will be commissioned and fully operational in the next several months.

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