PROVIDENCE — Brown University is planning to build an integrated life sciences building in the city’s Jewelry District, which will eventually hold state-of-the-art laboratory space for researchers in biology, medicine, brain science, bioengineering, and public health.
The exact location of the building has not yet been chosen, but would be close to Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the School of Public Health, the School of Engineering, and the university’s affiliated hospital partners.
On Wednesday, the university announced it had purchased a portfolio of properties in the Jewelry District from Care New England, the state’s second largest hospital system.
The portfolio includes 10 parcels that are close to the university’s medical school and research buildings. The parcels are home to four buildings, which are located at 200 Chestnut St., 70 Elm St., 261 Richmond St. and 300 Richmond St.
Over the last 12 years, the university said it has invested more than $225 million in the Jewelry District.
“In recent decades, Brown has made a series of substantial investments in the Jewelry District in support of collaborative work space for employees, housing for graduate students and — most extensively — biomedical research and education,” said Russell C. Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown. “As the University seeks to expand its research enterprise, these new properties will offer additional opportunities for growth in research space in a neighborhood where thousands of Brown scholars, staff and students already work and study every day.”
The properties are currently exempt from property taxes given their use by Care New England, which is considered a nonprofit. University officials said as these properties will be used for research and educational activity, they expect the tax-exempt status to remain in place.
It’s unclear if the university is considering one of these newly acquired parcels for its new life sciences building.
But an architect has not yet been selected, a process that could take three to six months, the university said. But an approval in May by the Committee on Budget and Finance of the Corporation of Brown University, the University’s governing body, kicked off the extensive planning phases that will begin assessing space needs, site requirements, conceptual design and projected scale and scope, as well as estimated project costs and funding sources.
Brian Clark, a Brown spokesman, said there are no design plans or renderings of the building at this time. But the university’s president, Christina H. Paxson, said the goal of a life sciences space in the Jewelry District dates to Building on Distinction, a 10-year strategic plan that launched in 2014 that uses fundraised dollars to help support Brown’s priorities.
“By fostering interdisciplinary research in the biological and life sciences and biomedical engineering to address major societal burdens ranging from aging and associated diseases — cancer and brain disorders — to infectious diseases like malaria, Brown scientists, physicians and scholars are at the leading edge of work toward new discoveries and solutions that impact lives here in Rhode Island and across the globe,” Paxson said in a statement.
Construction could take about four to five years.
Brown’s primary research facilities include the Biomedical Center and Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences on College Hill, the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine at 70 Ship St. in the Jewelry District, and 121 South Main St., home to the School of Public Health. Clark said all are currently “at or near maximum capacity,” and others need “significant investments for renovation and deferred maintenance.”
But Clark said this new facility would build on a series of Brown’s major developments in life sciences research. For example, the university established the Legorreta Cancer Center, building on the strengths of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology at Brown and Lifespan Health System. Center leaders are working toward a National Cancer Institute designation, also known as NCI, which is the highest federal designation for a cancer center.
If the center does receive NCI designation, it could bring millions of research dollars and clinical trials into Rhode Island.
In 2021, the university also established the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a joint program between the Carney Institute for Brain Science and the Division of Biology and Medicine. There, researchers are developing new approaches to identifying the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Part of the vision for the new building is to “enable the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics, particularly in highly promising areas such as RNA biology, to stimulate stronger partnerships with biotech and pharma, which will accelerate the timeline to clinical impact while simultaneously enhancing economic vibrancy and workforce opportunities for our Rhode Island community,” said Dr. Mukesh K. Jain, who was named dean of medicine and biological sciences in March.
This article has been updated with information about Brown University acquiring a portfolio of properties from Care New England.