Space Growing Scarce at a Medical Campus Seeking its Niche – Buffalo News Story

Fast-growing center seeks its place in the crowded biomedical sector

(Photos from The Buffalo News)

Published: 06/8/2013, 7:15 PM

As the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus works to overcome the region’s reputation as a high-tax, Rust Belt destination, it is already attracting enough tenants to be outgrowing its footprint, with two million square feet of space already added and another two million square feet planned by 2016. From left, electric cars charge in the parking lot across from the Innovation Center. Michelle Roti, a research technician, adds antibiotics to a growth media for cells at Tartis/Aging. Tivona Renoni, from GO Bike Buffalo, left, and Henry Raess work in the Innovation Center. Matthew Masin/Buffalo News

By Stephen T. Watson | News Staff Reporter | @buffaloscribe

The Texas Medical Center in Houston is the largest medical campus in the world, with 106,000 employees working in 290 buildings spread over an area 50 percent larger than Darien Lake theme park.

The powerhouse University of Pittsburgh pulled in $127 million in National Institutes of Health research grants this year, eight times the University at Buffalo’s total.

And the Miami Health District generates a $3 billion annual economic impact for Miami-Dade County in South Florida.

Skeptics wonder how the younger, and far smaller, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus can carve out a similar niche in the nation’s crowded and highly competitive biomedical sector, while overcoming the region’s high-tax, Rust Belt reputation in order to recruit scientists, doctors and entrepreneurs.

But experts contend Buffalo is not too puny or too far behind the other centers, and the Buffalo Niagara campus will succeed if it leverages its advantages of strong community support, collaborative decision-making and proximity to Southern Ontario.

“I get some rolling eyes when I say, ‘Buffalo’s doing a terrific job’,” said Charlie Dilks, a consultant and former president of the Association of University Research Parks. “They say, ‘Buffalo’s a dead city.’ I say, ‘No, it’s not.’

“That’s from people who haven’t been there and haven’t seen what’s going on. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for reputations to change.”

Other cities have found that a robust medical campus generates an array of benefits, from boosting health care, improving medical education, attracting research funds and creating jobs by taking innovations from the laboratory to the marketplace. That’s why cities, health care providers and universities pool resources.

“That’s what an academic medical center does,” said Candace S. Johnson, deputy director of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, citing the revenue generated at Pitt, where she previously worked. “It would be fantastic if we had that.”

The 11-year-old Buffalo Niagara campus is growing quickly, with two million square feet of space – or about 10 Walmart Supercenters – added in the past two years and another two million square feet planned by 2016. Employment on site will grow from 12,000 to 17,000 by then.

But the land-locked, 120-acre campus is starting to feel a space squeeze, with an Innovation Center that houses young companies nearly filled. Campus officials are thinking vertically and planning construction of a new center on top of a parking ramp to make better use of space.

“We can’t build five-story buildings anymore. We have to maximize the site,” said Patrick J. Whalen, the campus’ chief operating officer.

Life-sciences jobs

Other cities may have much bigger medical campuses, but the biomedical field is a crowded one, and the industry is big enough – and specialized enough – that no single region or institution can dominate, according to Simon J. Tripp, senior director of the technology partnership practice for Battelle, a global research and development organization.

The nation has about 125 academic medical centers, including Buffalo, and all are trying to build a life-sciences economy from the research they perform, Tripp said.

“The pie is so incredibly large that even a small slice, particularly for a community the size of Buffalo, can be a pretty significant economic engine,” he said.

The successful medical campuses have strong leadership, are treated as a community priority and their member institutions play nice with each other, said Dilks, the industry consultant. “I don’t think you’re too late to the game at all,” he said of Buffalo.

The hard part, Tripp added, is creating a “comprehensive innovation ecosystem,” with sufficient venture capital and veteran leadership to build and support a network of startups.

The region needs to capitalize on its strengths as a border community with an educated workforce and low cost of living, experts said, while finding a niche in a field such as genomics or cancer research.

“You get to where you’re recognized as a center of excellence in something,” said Thomas A. Kucharski, president and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. “I think all that is starting to take hold on the medical campus. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time.”

Collaboration models

The medical campus organization – which represents UB, Roswell Park, Kaleida Health and other institutions – is a model of collaboration that followed less-successful efforts in the 1980s and ’90s.

“I think people were ready,” said Thomas R. Beecher Jr., an attorney who headed the medical corridor planning effort in the early 2000s.

Local organizers extensively studied the best practices at other centers and research parks.

“Tom Beecher said, ‘No sense reinventing the wheel. Let’s steal shamelessly from other places,’ ” Whalen recalled.

The Buffalo team learned, for example, the organization that runs the vast Texas Medical Campus makes enough money from the 27,500 parking spaces it owns to cover its overhead costs. Now the entity that runs the Buffalo campus is “pretty much self-sufficient” from parking and Innovation Center rent revenue, Whalen said.

Community benefits

It will take time for the benefits of the medical campus development to reach the surrounding neighborhoods.

Ruth Bryant, a retired assistant dean in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, serves as the Fruit Belt’s representative on the medical campus board. She said residents are concerned about boosting home ownership in their neighborhood, ensuring they have access to the jobs created on the campus and keeping the cars and SUVs of campus employees from crowding their streets.

“How do you respect that neighborhood while still growing?” Bryant asked. “It’s the residents working with the campus to come up with the solutions.”

Officials acknowledge the campus won’t be considered a success until research is spun off into biotech companies.

“If you look at other models and other communities out there, it’s the private sector investment that drives everything,” said Enstice.

Innovation Center

Not every life-sciences company will succeed – as the demise of SmartPill Corp. showed – but the Innovation Center on the Buffalo campus is spurring this effort.

There are 63 companies in the center named for Beecher, including a fourth-floor incubator.

The center hosts Bagel Fridays, where tenants casually engage over a light breakfast, and three projects have grown out of the weekly gatherings.

“The building has great energy,” said Rob Wynne, the president and executive creative director of Wynne Creative Group, an advertising agency that moved its six employees to the Innovation Center in 2012.

Mobile HealthCare Connections was the first incubator tenant. The company works with doctors, nurses and pharmacists to provide real-time, in-home monitoring and management of patients, particularly those who are elderly and less able to get around.

“It’s the heartbeat of the medical community,” CEO Brian Egan said.

The Innovation Center opened in 2010, part of a recent flurry of construction activity, and 5,000 more workers are expected on campus by 2016, when Children’s Hospital and UB Medical School are opened.

City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder has asked Whalen, the campus’ chief operating officer, to meet with representatives of credit ratings agencies to show them the development taking place on the medical campus.

One woman from Standard & Poor’s, looking at a map of the campus, told Whalen they seem to be running out of room.

Thinking vertically

The campus has to think vertically, Whalen said, as when UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center and Kaleida’s Gates Vascular Institute were stacked in the same building. One option for the second Innovation Center fits this model.

The campus needs to build another center to house Albany Molecular Research Inc. and the other tenants of a drug and medical research facility.

The first plan, which would have required tearing down part of the former Trico complex, ran into objections from preservationists.

Now, campus officials are looking at a different wp-contentroach: Tearing down the aging, city-owned Ellicott Goodrich Garage, known as the EGG, and replacing those 900 spaces with a 1,600-vehicle ramp and several floors of research space on top of the $87 million structure.

AMRI, the anchor tenant, and its partners are receiving a $50 million state grant to support their move to the campus.

The hope is the next AMRI won’t require any financial carrot, because the prospect of locating on the medical campus will be attraction enough.

“It’s the culture change this is bringing to Buffalo. The campus makes that undeniable,” said Marnie LaVigne, UB’s associate vice president for economic development. “I have my own mother asking me, ‘Is this real?’ It’s real.”


Pursuing a Career in Life Sciences in Buffalo Niagara

The Life Sciences Commercialization Lecture Series will feature the “Pursuing a Life Sciences Career in Buffalo Niagara” panel discussion on Thursday, May 23rd from 4 – 5 p.m. in the Zebro Conference Room at the Roswell Park Center for Genetics and Pharmacology (701 Ellicott Street).  Moderated by Steve Kimmel-Hurt from the Superior Group, the panel will consists of companies like AMRI and Harmac Medical Products that will offer insight to individuals looking to learn more about the different life sciences and advanced manufacturing career opportunities.
With the  life sciences sector growing on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and throughout the region, the demand for a highly skilled and trained workforce is increasing. Hear from local life sciences firms about their workforce needs and why this is a great time to pursue a career in these exciting fields. To register to attend this free event, click here.

For more information about life sciences, medical device, and biotechnology companies on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and to learn more the each company’s area of focus, view the list of companies on the BNMC.

To learn more about specific opportunities offered by member institutions on the Medical Campus like Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Buffalo Medical Group, P.C., Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Kaleida Health, Olmsted Center for Sight, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, University at Buffalo and Unyts, visit each individual website.

Additional resources:

5-23 Flyer

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Honors Researchers Making a Difference

A group of innovative and influential tycoons came together to form the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions in the life sciences field. The most lucrative prize offered for any academic achievement in the world, the first group to receive the annual Breakthrough Prize included 11 recipients, all scientists, in February. The awardees received $3 million and recognition for their “excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.”
Lauretes included:

  • Cornelia I. Bargmann – For the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules.
  • David Botstein – For linkage mwp-contenting of Mendelian disease in humans using DNA polymorphisms.
  • Lewis C. Cantley – For the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.
  • Hans Clevers – For describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stem cells and cancer.
  • Napoleone Ferrara – For discoveries in the mechanisms of angiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases.
  • Titia de Lange – For research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer.
  • Eric S. Lander – For the discovery of general principles for identifying human disease genes, and enabling their wp-contentlication to medicine through the creation and analysis of genetic, physical and sequence maps of the human genome.
  • Charles L. Sawyers – For cancer genes and targeted therapy.
  • Bert Vogelstein – For cancer genomics and tumor suppressor genes.
  • Robert A. Weinberg – For characterization of human cancer genes.
  • Shinya Yamanaka – For induced pluripotent stem cells.

Russian venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Yuri Milner, established the prize along with additional founding sponsors Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki and Mark Zuckerberg. All accomplished Internet and business gurus in their own right, the group has already guaranteed that the prize be presented for the next 5 years.

Life sciences companies including those involved with biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and biomedicine are coming up with innovative and effective ways to treat different types of cancer. Academic and health care institutions are leading research efforts to use genomics to identify personalized medicine. With all of the developments taking place on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus alone, it is easy to understand why it is important to recognize the individuals making life-enhancing discoveries. The Prize is public validation that the work being done in labs, under the microscopes, in the manufacturing companies and during simulations is highly valued and respected.

“I believe this new prize will shine a light on the extraordinary achievements of the outstanding minds in the field of life sciences, enhance medical innovation, and ultimately become a platform for recognizing future discoveries,” said Art Levinson. In addition to his current position as Chairman of both the Apple Inc. and Genentech Boards, Levinson will serve as the Chairman of the Board of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Bound to spark an influx of submissions for consideration since any third party can nominate a researcher or scientist for the Prize, the major qualification is that it must recognize a major achievement, with special attention to recent developments. A person can win the Prize any number of times and there are no age requirements. The Prize can also be shared amongst a group of people.

In realizing that the next generations will lead the development of the next big breakthrough, the Prize is a recognition well-deserved for those whose jobs may not be as glamorous or well-known. It will serve as one more way to shed light on how impactful and relevant scientists and researchers are and will open the door for more students to take interest in pursuing those career paths.

UB Recruiting Innovators in Life Sciences for High-Tech CEL

Program Offers Entrepreneurial Guidance, Knowledge and Mentorship for those in Field

Leaders of early-stage life sciences and technology companies can take advantage of a High-Tech Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) program that will begin in March 2013.

Now in its third year, the High Tech CEL is a collaboration between the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) in the University at Buffalo School of Management and UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

With funding from a number of sources, including an Economic Development Administration grant and an award from UB’s “E Fund,” the program’s mission is to help participants build a strong management team and develop an individualized pathway toward commercialization.

Participants of the 10-week program meet for two hours a week, covering a range of topics, including commercialization strategies, finance issues, intellectual property, FDA regulations, investor relations, sales and marketing, and more.

“The High-Tech CEL is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to build their business skills, gain hands-on experience, and learn from other professionals who understand the challenges they’re facing,” said Thomas Ulbrich, executive director of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

“This program is greatly beneficial for those whose firms are in the initial phase of taking their work from the lab to the market,” said Marnie LaVigne, PhD, associate vice president of economic development at UB. “It incorporates key high-tech business topics into the strength of the time-tested CEL program that has helped hundreds of traditional businesses in the region grow since 1987.”

Case studies, roundtables, panel discussions and lectures make up the curriculum, and each participant is partnered with a seasoned, successful entrepreneur who is attuned to the issues that influence business decisions. These mentors guide, advise and support participants throughout the program to help them achieve specific objectives.

The High-Tech CEL program is engaging and interactive and focuses on the importance of initiating and nurturing relationships between early-stage companies and leaders in the Buffalo-Niagara life science and technology ecosystem by providing structured networking opportunities throughout the duration of the program.

Charles d’Estries, director of SciBiz International Inc., will moderate the program. He provides business development consulting for entrepreneurs in the life sciences and high-tech fields, particularly those in the early stages of business.

Program cost is $995 per participant, and consecutive participants from the same company can attend at a 50 percent discount ($497).

To learn more or wp-contently, contact the CEL at 716-885-5715 or

The mission of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (COE) is to study the mechanistic processes involved in human disease with the goal of developing diagnostics tools and therapeutic interventions, preventative treatment and other disease management devices and processes to improve the health and well-being of the population. This scientific mission is balanced by the COE’s responsibility to act as a facilitator of economic development in Upstate New York by building and supporting partnerships between academia, industry and government. More information is available at

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit

Jacqueline Ghosen, UB School of Management;; 716-645-2833