B. Whitehead Sr.
was a man with big, new-fangled ideas. In the 1890s, he got
the radical notion that bottling the soda-fountain favorite
Coca-Cola might prove a popular venture. Indeed, his bottling
company became one of the greatest business success stories
in American history. So it is fitting that Whiteheads
pioneering spirit is honored in Emorys newest research
building, a structure as bold and visionary as Whitehead himself.
the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building opened in Aprila
month ahead of schedule and $1 million under budgetvisitors
had the chance to tour a little corner of the future. In the
Center for Medical Genomics, they watched a capillary electopheresis
sequencer rapidly separate genes and a wave nucleic fragment
analysis system identify genetic variations. In plain English,
the Whitehead building boasts some of the most sophisticated
medical research equipment in the world, creating the potential
for new discoveries about, for example, the links between genes
Whitehead Biomedical Research Building represents a substantial
investment by Emory in the advancement of basic biomedical science
that is the foundation of all progress in medicine and health
care, says Michael M. E. Johns, executive vice president
for health affairs and director of the Robert W. Woodruff Health
Sciences Center. This wonderful new research building
is a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of Emorys commitment
to attracting the very best biomedical scientists to Emory and
Atlanta and to being one of the worlds leading centers
of medical discovery and innovation.
eight-story, 325,000-square-foot building located behind the
Dental Building houses three basic science departments within
Emorys School of Medicine: cell biology, human genetics,
and physiology. Also located there are the Center for Neurodegenerative
Diseases and research programs in the departments of medicine
and pathology and laboratory medicine.
of the buildings most innovative features for researchers
is its open laboratory space. The 150 lab modules are capacious
and flexible, designed with few walls to encourage interaction
and collaboration among the investigators who spend their days
there. Hundreds of windows allow natural light to pour in.
I was in graduate school in the 1970s, science was more individual,
says cell biology chair Barry Shur. Technology was simpler,
you were trained in a particular technique, and you worked by
yourself at the bench. Today, science is so technically sophisticated
that our scientists cant do good science in a room by
themselves. They need to bump into other scientists in an interactive
space; they need to talk to geneticists, neurobiologists, cell
biologists, and electrophysiologists. The physical barriers
of self-contained labs hinder good research.
the area of human genetics, researchers are investigating hereditary
disorders including Huntingdon disease, Down syndrome, and fragile
X syndrome. Cell biologists are focused on neurological diseases,
normal cell development versus cancerous cell growth, and human
embryonic development. This department features Georgias
first high-speed, laser-scanning confocal microscope, custom-designed
to measure and manipulate brain activity in real time.
are studying kidney disease and hypertension, sickle cell disease,
diabetes, cystic fibrosis, male infertility, and spinal cord
injury. Basic scientists in pathology and laboratory medicine
conduct a range of research on the biology of epithelial cells,
inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Those working on digestive
diseases are studying the genetic influence on colon cancer
and bowel diseases. Pulmonary and critical care scientists are
looking at cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and the molecular mechanisms
leading to successful lung transplants.
below the bustle of the Whitehead labs, 130,000 mice rustle
the bedding in their plastic cages. The 50,000-square-foot vivarium
is kept tidy and fresh by the robotic institutional cage-washing
system developed by the Swedish Karolinksa Research Institutethe
first of its kind installed in the U.S. The Whitehead building
also is equipped with seven high-containment labs suitable for
research on organisms classified at biosafety level III.
its red tile roof and tan stucco exterior, the research center
appears to keep step with other classic Emory buildings; yet
it is one of the greenest buildings in the country.
The Whitehead Building meets the stringent standards of the
Leadership in Energy Environmental Design program, joining only
a dozen other certified structures. Special heat-recovery wheels
on the roof are expected to recoup $100,000 in energy costs
a year, while water-recovery units should save 2.5 million gallons
of water annually. Rainwater is collected and used for irrigation.
And ninety percent of the buildings occupants can work
Whitehead Biomedical Research Building owes its existence to
funds from the foundations created by Whiteheads family:
his wife Letitia, his sons Joseph Jr. and Conkey Pate. For nearly
a century, Emory has benefited from the familys quiet
generosity. Their philanthropic efforts are wide ranging and
well known. Whiteheads name graces the surgical pavilion
at Emory Hospital, and there is a Joseph B. Whitehead Chair
professorship in the Department of Surgery.
the dedication of Whiteheads most recent and grandest
namesake, President William M. Chace spoke the hearts of many
who had dreamed of such a building. This building stands
as a tribute to the familys collective vision of a better,
healthier, and happier world.P.P.P.