NORTH CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — Rosalind Franklin University’s Innovation and Research Park took another step forward on Oct. 14 when the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced a $2 million matching grant that will allow the university to complete buildout of the facility’s industry space.
The grant is part of the state’s Wet Lab Capital program, which leverages Rebuild Illinois dollars to fund advancements in research and medicine, according to DCEO officials. RFU Executive Vice President for Research Ronald Kaplan, PhD, said the program and the IRP address “an acute shortage of wet lab space” critical for research and development.
“This funding will allow us to develop and open state-of-the art wet lab space for collaboration with industry partners,” Dr. Kaplan added. “It will also benefit Lake County communities as more biotech companies settle and expand in the region, creating new jobs, internships and training programs.”
RFU President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM, said the funds — paired with $2 million from RFU — will help the university accelerate recruitment from among many life-science companies seeking move-in ready space.
“Partnering with the state of Illinois is essential to driving healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship,” Dr. Rheault added. “Working across sectors in public/private partnership, we’re building a research enterprise that will benefit the health and well-being of communities for generations to come.”
Located on the north side of the RFU campus, the $50 million IRP opened in early 2020. It is designed to foster collaboration between academic and industry scientists around a shared goal of accelerating the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics. Currently, two-thirds of the building’s 100,000 square-feet of laboratory and office space are dedicated to RFU scientists, many of whom are working on research projects funded by sources that include the National Institutes of Health. The remaining space in the building is intended to house industry collaborators who intersect with the university’s mission and enhance the potential for advancement in bioscience research.
In a Chicago ceremony announcing the grants, Gov. J.B. Pritzker noted that RFU sits “in the heart of Illinois’ biopharma ecosystem in northern Illinois,” making it a prime candidate for the program.
“We need to put the pedal to the metal right now in our life-sciences sector, especially when its success is so critical to our future economic security,” Pritzker said. “So we partnered with the job creators at the forefront of this field in listening to their needs as investors in our field. And the first thing they’ve been loud and clear about is the kind of modern wet-lab facilities required to conduct specialized research.”
Other recipients in the program include Back of the Yards Algae Sciences in Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, NuMat Technologies in Skokie, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign.
The most recent company to join the IRP is SHIELD Illinois, which is processing saliva-based COVID-19 tests for school districts in northeastern Illinois. The park secured its first tenant last fall through a license agreement with Inspirotec, Inc., which offers airborne allergen detection to consumers, physicians, industrial hygienists and indoor air quality professionals.
About Rosalind Franklin University
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is committed to serving the population through the interprofessional education of health and biomedical professionals and the discovery of knowledge dedicated to improving wellness. The university embodies the spirit of inquiry and excellence modeled by its namesake Dr. Rosalind Franklin, whose Photo 51 was crucial to solving the structure of DNA. Recognized for its research in areas including neuroscience, brain-related diseases, inherited disorders, diabetes, obesity, and gait and balance, RFU encompasses the Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, and plans are moving forward for a College of Nursing. Learn more at rosalindfranklin.edu