UNC officials dedicate new imaging research building

Mar. 27, 2014 @ 09:35 PM

After more than three years of construction, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials and others cut the ribbon on Thursday for the new, $245 million building that will house state-of-the-art imaging equipment for cancer research and other studies.

The nine-story, 340,000-square-foot building, has yet to be filled with researchers, students and staff. But it already houses a cyclotron, which is a type of particle accelerator used to make radioactive atoms used in medical imaging.
The building will also house a hybrid MRI/PET whole-body scanner, and is home to a 7 Tesla MRI whole-body scanner. UNC is joining a short list of academic medical centers with the equipment all in one locale.
According to a news release from UNC, UNC and Massachusetts General Hospital, which is associated with Harvard University, will be the only two centers with all three pieces of equipment in one location.
The building was the only new public building to be funded by state dollars in 2009, according to the release, and all but $1.5 million of the total cost was covered by the state.
At Thursday’s dedication and ribbon cutting, UNC officials championed state political leaders who were involved in securing funding, including Marc Basnight, the former Democratic president pro tempore of the N.C. Senate who stepped down in 2011 as Republicans were taking control of the N.C. General Assembly.
“That was done despite (the) economic slowdown,” Carol Folt, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, said of the funding for the facility.
Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, said they’re grateful to state leaders who had the vision to move forward with an investment considered “so critical to North Carolina’s future.”
“This is a gift from the people of North Carolina to the people of North Carolina and the world and we’re grateful for it,” said Bill Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of the UNC School of Medicine.
Aldona Wos, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Thomas F. Marsico of Denver, Colo., for whom the building is named, also spoke Thurday. Marsico is the chairman and CEO of Marsico Capital Management, he’s the father of two UNC alumni, and is a major donor to the UNC School of Medicine.
The building will house the Marsico Lung Institute, the Biomedical Research Imaging Center, and researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and researchers who are doing work in nanomedicine, microbiology and immunology, and pharmaco-engineering.
After Thursday’s ceremony, elevators ferried guests down into the sub-basement where the cyclotron is already set up in space with a 6-feet-thick door and with walls that are 7 feet-thick.
The tour allowed guests to walk through rooms that will be used for animal imaging studies, and into a room down the hall with an audible hum. The room had a 7T MRI whole-body scanner set up inside.
Hongyu An, an assistant professor of radiology at the UNC School of Medicine, said the whole-body scanner will allow researchers to get much more detailed images such as of the brain or blood vessels.