Construction of the $30 million Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, the world’s first independent research center devoted to the study of human memory, began today (Nov. 8) on the campus of West Virginia University.

“We have grown from a start-up research institution to one that is competing with some of the finest research facilities throughout the country for grants and research funds,”said U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).”The Rockefeller Institute is receiving patents for its original ideas and research, and our scientists are moving toward great strides in the development of drugs to treat neurological diseases. The construction of this new building underscores the significant progress we are making in the lab.”

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise and Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony this afternoon.

The 102,500-square-foot building, designed by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott of Boston, will include laboratories, procedure rooms and office space. Funding for construction of the research center includes a $19.6 million Federal grant, obtained with the assistance of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), and $10 million in West Virginia state economic development funds.

“I am gratified that I have been able to do my part in directing $19.6 million in federal funding to help construct this wonderful neuroscience facility,”said Byrd.”As I gaze upon the site for this facility, as I think of the important role this Institute will play in helping people to recover, remember and think clearly, I have absolutely no doubt that the Great Physician’s work will thrive in this place.

“I am humbled by the many miracles of science that I have witnessed in just my lifetime. Each year, we discover new cures and treatments for such maladies as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and many more. What delights me most are the scientific advances that have taken place in the past century, and the ones that will take place in this next century, right here at WVU a point of pride for every West Virginian. It is my hope that, by utilizing the resources at the new Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, scientists and researchers will one day be able to find a way not only to control debilitating diseases, but also to prevent them from ever occurring.”

The BRNI facility will have the capacity to support the research activities of up to 40 scientists and their associated laboratory, administrative and support personnel. Two-hundred persons are expected to be employed here when the building is fully occupied.

“This new building validates the role of the Rockefeller Institute and West Virginia University in the future of scientific research,”Rockefeller added.”A permanent, modern facility of our own will allow us to continue to recruit and attract world-renowned scientists, pursue innovative research and encourage the continued financial development of the Institute.”

Wise presented a $10 million investment from the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee.”The investments we make today are for the future of our state,”he said.”Investing in research means supporting the growth of regional economies.”

“The work done at the Institute benefits not only West Virginians, but people across the world,”Wise added.”Alzheimer’s is a horrible, debilitating disease. This research facility will provide more space for researchers to work to understand these types of diseases.”

Dozens of research projects are already under way in the Institute’s temporary quarters at WVU and at the Johns Hopkins University.”Our scientific faculty have already published in the leading journals, and have developed new approaches to the study of memory,”said Robert M. D’Alessandri, M.D., president of the Institute.”We are looking forward to developing even stronger partnerships with the private sector to convert this intellectual property into useful diagnostic and therapeutic tools that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of people.”