The University of Missouri System (UM System) Translational and Precision Medicine Complex (TPMC) project is confidently projected to open for business in October 2021. The Feb. 6 update, held at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), was open to the entire University community. A recording of the event is available on the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) webpage.
Multiple speakers at the event emphasized that the TPMC is much more than a building. MU Vice Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships Elizabeth Loboa stressed the purpose of the project is to serve Missouri.
“What we’re really talking about when we’re talking about the TPMC is about improving the lives of Missourians and decreasing the cost of healthcare. Those are the true goals,” Loboa said.
To accomplish these goals, the TPMC will connect a variety of researchers and industry partners under a single roof and provide them with access to cutting-edge resources, all with the explicit purpose of developing useable technology to advance healthcare. Although much of the research and development will take place within the new building on the MU campus, the range of activities will extend across the four universities of the UM System and to MU Health Care. A name change to reflect the broader scope of the project is currently in development.
The TPMC building will include lab space for current and new faculty, graduate students and clinicians, as well as collaborative spaces for work with industry partners. Integrating the activities of these groups is expected to rapidly accelerate the downstream development of health care technologies, which typically does not happen in academic laboratories. Bill Turpin, interim associate vice chancellor for economic development, described the innovative potential of the TPMC, saying “This really helps streamline the process of getting things translated from the lab out into the world.”
Early concept designs for the building were revealed at the presentation, as well as other details about the construction at Hospital Drive and Virginia Avenue. The state-of-the-art facilities will support the TPMC’s mission of accelerating research from across the UM System to improve life in the state and beyond.
The greater mission of the TPMC is reflected in the establishment of three emphasis-area working groups, each of which includes researchers and faculty from all four universities. The three groups – cancer, vascular and neurological – are actively helping to plan the direction of the initiative, including building design. Dr. Jeff Bryan, professor of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery and head of the cancer working group, spoke passionately about how building design had been carefully considered to serve the needs of all investigators across the system, not just a select few. He also described how essential the TPMC was to advancing the research mission of the UM System.
“We need to integrate [research from the four universities] across the state and a facility like the TPMC is really critical for that integration in order to leverage the discoveries in these locations,” Bryan said. “We already have a track record of succeeding. I think this will accelerate it.”
Heads of the other emphasis groups, vascular and neurological, also gave presentations about ongoing research by faculty in the groups, and noted how their work would be advanced by the TPMC project. The presentations made it apparent that research from across the UM System has major potential to help solve a variety of real-world problems, as well as bring national attention to the innovative techniques and strategies used by UM System investigators.
While the TPMC will elevate the prestige of research in the UM System by helping investigators generate more publications and research proposals, President Mun Choi made it clear that the key outcome for the project is to improve health care.
“There is not a more exciting opportunity for bringing the best minds together from all over Missouri to solve a problem that is national in scope,” Choi said.
The opportunity to make a real-world impact does, however, come at a cost. President Choi said that making the TPMC the highest priority of the UM System means that “there are also other projects that we are not going to be able to support.” Despite this news, faculty and other presenters at the event were optimistic about what the TPMC means for the future of the UM System. Additionally, University finance officials expressed confidence that funds have been and will continue to be secured to support the project’s aggressive timeline.
President Choi closed the update session by driving home the key message of the day, reaffirming “The TPMC is not just a building. It’s a broad array of activities that we’re going to be leading that [speak to] our ability to make a difference in healthcare broadly, for Missouri and the nation.”