Emory Report
November 8, 2004
Volume 57, Number 11


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November 8, 2004
Yerkes cuts ribbon to neuroscience building

BY Eric Rangus

The Neuroscience Research Facility at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center was dedicated Thursday, Oct. 28. Around 200 people, including Emory administrators, trustees and representatives from the Georgia Research Alliance, braved a late afternoon rain shower to celebrate the opening of Emory’s newest tool to foster further discoveries to improve human health.

“This is not just about buildings,” said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs. “It’s about the science inside.” True enough, but those scientists fortunate enough to be working inside the new facility will find themselves in a state-of-the-art research center.

The $27 million, five-story building, connected to the main Yerkes facility by a bridge, provides 92,000 square feet of research space. Work in the facility will include research related
to cognitive development and decline; early-onset development disorders such as autism; aging-related, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss; Parkinson’s
disease; and other neurological disorders.

The facility includes 39 behavioral labs, eight research labs and three anchor tenants: the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN), the brain imaging center and the PETNET center, where work is ongoing to research and develop new molecular probes to help doctors better diagnose, treat and monitor diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. The center’s imaging suite will allow researchers to take hospital-quality positron imaging (PET) scans of nonhuman primates and rodents, which will significantly contribute to its cognitive research programs. The center can house up to 292 rhesus macaques and nine fourth-floor rooms will encompass the rodent vivarium.

“With the opening of this neuroscience research facility, Yerkes is well positioned to continue its tremendous growth—in research support work here, in the recruitment and training of neuroscientists, and in scientific discovery for the benefit of all,” said President Jim Wagner, one of five speakers on the afternoon.

Each of the ceremony’s speakers focused on the teamwork aspect of research and the important role the new center, and Yerkes in general, play in Emory’s wider research responsibilities.

“Numerous faculty here at Yerkes have either their primary or joint appointments in the School of Medicine,” said medical school Dean Thomas Lawley. “The Vaccine Center located just behind you is one of the largest academic vaccine centers in the world, with leading experts in microbiology and immunology, infectious diseases, virology and animal research.”

“This bridge is meant to be more than symbolic,” said Yerkes Director Stuart Zola, referring to the walkway connecting the center to the main Yerkes building, which includes the Vaccine Center and several other areas. “It’s important to join these people and their work.”

“Emory is one of our most valuable partners,” said Mike Cassidy, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Research Alliance, a nonprofit partnership of Georgia’s research universities (including Emory and five others), business community and state government devoted to economic development. “I have every confidence the investment we are making in Yerkes, its neuroscience facility and the CBN will be among our most successful accomplishments.”

One thing is certain—the new center has become one of the campus’ most sought-after addresses. “All of the offices are already filled,” Zola said. “There is no more space for any more scientists. We really are a destination university. We are a place where people want to be.”

Following the ribbon cutting, many of those in attendance were given tours of the new facility and had the opportunity to speak with several Yerkes researchers.