November 14, 2002

Cancer Research Facility Opens

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With a snip of a celebratory ribbon and a friendly handshake, University President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Lloyd J. Old, director and CEO of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) marked the historical opening of a new anti-cancer research facility in Stocking Hall yesterday.

Following a reception in which Rawlings, Old and others gave comments, guests were invited to tour the new facility, located on the third floor of Stocking Hall.

Founded by Daniel K. Ludwig in 1971, Ludwig Institute has brought together 850 leading scientists and clinicians worldwide to address and hopefully ameliorate the growing problem with common cancers.

The new addition, titled the Cornell University Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Partnership Biological Production Facility, is the result of a partnership between the University and LICR which began in 1999.

“[The LICR] wanted to extend fundamental discoveries about cancer into early-phase clinical trials. We had a very long period of searching for partners in academia and when I heard about Cornell’s outstanding engineering programs, I spoke with [Rawlings] and realized that this was an institution that understood our mission,” Old said.

Rawlings was equally impressed with Old.

“Dr. Old has made it quite clear that he wants to be a part of the great human effort to solve the ravages of cancer. I became convinced quite early on that he meant what he said,” Rawlings said.

In the early phases of the CU/LICR Partnership, Rawlings enlisted the help of three professors at Cornell — Prof. David Wilson, molecular biology and genetics, Prof. Michael Shuler, chemical and biomedical engineering and director of the biomedical engineering program and Carl A. Batt, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Food Science.

Both Old and Rawlings credit much of the partnership’s success to Batt, who now serves as director of the CU/LICR Partnership.

“Every project needs a champion and for Cornell that has been [Batt],” Rawlings said. “He has the will … to make certain that the goal is reached. Thanks to [Batt] we are living up to our part of the bargain.”

Batt’s drive to make the partnership’s dream a reality stems from the potential he saw in the facility.

“This is quite an endeavor. What comes out of this will be important in clinical trials and it will give students exposure to opportunities that are unavailable at many other institutions,” he said.

Shuler likewise sees several benefits for students.

“There is a potential opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to gain from this intellectual connection with the [LICR],” he said.

Unlike other university research labs, this facility meets Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which allows for the production of materials that will later be administered to humans during clinical trials conducted by LICR branches worldwide.

Frank Lee, assistant investigator for the Ludwig Institute and visiting fellow, believes that the GMP compliant building will have far reaching benefits for the University.

“The ingredients are there to make Cornell the focal point of biotechnology in this area. It’s great for undergraduate students and graduate students in chemical engineering to get experience in GMP operations,” he said.

The GMP facility allows Cornell students to combine academia with industrial experience and develop the kind of knowledge that employers rarely find in students.

Itzcoatl A. Pla grad has reaped many benefits from this partnership.

“Dealing with the GMP lab has really broadened my experience. This is a good place to make the transition from academics to industry. I feel that what I’m working on really has an impact on society,” he said. Having a venue for industrial research in an academic setting is especially advantageous for the LICR, since in the past they have had difficulty finding a venue where they could produce microbial materials.

“The most common organizations that do this work are fully occupied and don’t have the facilities to produce this material,” said Eric Hoffman, director of clinical trials management at LICR.

LICR president Edward A. McDermott Jr. has high hopes for the CU/LICR Partnership.

“We searched the world for a compatible academic partner and we were led to Cornell. We intend to bring in discoveries from all over the world,” he said.

The materials produced by this $2 million facility will be used only in the most initial phases of clinical exploration. They will serve as a starting point for future product development and larger scale clinical trials, usually handled by large industries, according to the LICR.

Rawlings summarized the day’s events by saying, “Today is a culmination of [Old’s] view that Cornell can play a role in Ludwig’s work. This is indeed a banner day for Cornell University and the Ludwig Institute.”

Archived article by Jennifer Thompson