Construction Begins on RIT’s $12 Million Bioscience Center; Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Pledges $2 Million




Follow Susan Gawlowicz on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield today announced a multiyear grant totaling $2 million in support of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Bioscience Education and Technology (CBET) as an investment in the regional healthcare workforce.

The announcement was made at a groundbreaking ceremony for the $12 million, 35,000-square-foot facility that will be built on the RIT campus. Of the $12 million, $8 million was provided by the state of New York through the Gen*NY*sis and RESTORE NY programs. The groundbreaking event was held to recognize the new corporate partnership with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and to acknowledge the efforts of Sen. Jim Alesi, Assemblymember Susan John and Assemblyman Joe Morelle who secured the state funding. RIT has provided an additional $4 million to build the facility. Construction will begin this spring with occupancy expected by September 2006.

CBET is a national model for comprehensive academic, community and career-training programs in biotechnology and the emerging life sciences that grew from a workforce study assessing the needs of the biotechnology industry in western New York conducted by RIT’s Douglas Merrill, associate dean of the College of Science, and Gary Skuse, director of bioinformatics.

Excellus BCBS’ gift is an investment in the education, training and professional development of current and future workers in the biosciences. In recognition of its generous support, RIT will dedicate the Excellus BCBS Center for Bioscience Exploration and Discovery, one of three distinct learning divisions within CBET. The Excellus BCBS Center for Bioscience Exploration and Discovery will consist of five multipurpose, high-tech laboratories and classrooms for workforce development, academic programs, continuing education programs, research, K-12 student workshops and secondary-school training programs. (See attached list.)

“Health care is an increasingly important part of the upstate New York economy in general and the Rochester economy in particular,” said Scott Ellsworth, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “As a major employer in upstate New York, and as the state’s largest non-profit health insurer, we are committed to developing the workforce that health care needs now and will need in the future.”

“The Greater Rochester region has identified bioscience as a strategic economic development opportunity,” says RIT President Albert Simone. “In order to realize that opportunity, however, we need a workforce that has the skills industry needs. Thanks to the foresight and persistence of our state delegation members, and the generous investment of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, RIT’s Center for Bioscience Education and Technology will play a key role in meeting this need.”

“The Center of Bioscience Education and Technology will provide students and faculty at RIT yet another exquisite facility in which to further studies and conduct research in bioscience education,” says Alesi. “The opening of CBET is the result of a collaborative effort between elected officials and corporate sponsors, and the center will undoubtedly become an invaluable educational tool to future generations of students, as well as a great addition to the Greater Rochester community.”

“I applaud Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for their commitment to the Rochester Institute of Technology,” says Assemblymember Susan John. “The Center for Bioscience Education and Technology adds to RIT’s educational and workforce development programs that are the hallmark of the institution since its inception. RIT’s commitment to our community will ensure that we will continue to provide a highly trained workforce for a healthy economic future.”

Adds Assemblyman Joseph Morelle: “Producing a highly educated workforce is key to revitalizing the Rochester region’s economy, and RIT’s Center for Bioscience Education and Technology is helping to achieve this goal. I am proud to be a part of this project and commend RIT and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for their excellent work towards creating the most highly skilled workforce in the state.”

In addition to the BCBS Center for Bioscience Exploration and Discovery, CBET will also include the Center for Bioscience Workforce Training and the Center for Multidisciplinary Bioscience Research, a laboratory suite for collaborative research across disciplines. As a multipurpose teaching, training and research facility, CBET will introduce new academic programs like forensic medicine and expand workforce-training classes. It will offer specialized certificate programs, customized workshops and seminars for the bioscience and healthcare industries, promote applied research initiatives and support community education programs, encouraging students to pursue careers in science and technology.

“Our state delegation who championed this effort recognized that New York state must have a state-of-the-art facility like CBET to provide the workforce needed to promote real economic growth in the region,” says Merrill. “Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s significant investment in CBET will ensure that RIT remains a national leader in bioscience education.”

About Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to 2 million people across 45 counties in New York state and offers long-term care coverage nationwide. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage—particularly for the uninsured, underinsured and aged. It offers valuable health-related resources that members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and Member Rewards programs. To learn more, visit www.excellusbcbs.com.

The Excellus BCBS Center for Bioscience Exploration and Discovery at RIT:

  • High-Tech Bioscience Classroom—This 1,050-square-foot “smart classroom” will accommodate approximately 40 students with wireless access and a podium equipped for multimedia presentations.
  • High-Tech Bioscience Teaching Laboratory—This 1,650-square-foot multipurpose teaching laboratory will accommodate 20 students. It will support instruction in the Certificate Program in Bioprocessing Operations for displaced workers seeking employment in the healthcare or biotechnology industries, new courses in the expanding bioscience curriculum, K-12 summer and weekend bioscience camps and summer academies for high school teachers.
  • Anatomical Studies Laboratory—This 1,450-square-foot laboratory will be dedicated to teaching human anatomy through cadaver dissection to 24 students at a time enrolled in biomedical science, premedical/predental studies, diagnostic medical sonography, echocardiography, biomedical engineering, medical illustration and physician assistant programs. The lab will include six cadaver tables, wall-mounted monitors for display of computer-based images or video sequences to assist dissection. The anatomical studies laboratory also will be used to conduct continuing medical education workshops in anatomy for allied health professionals.
  • Histopathology and Forensic Medicine Laboratory—This 968-square-foot laboratory will support a variety of bioscience curricula pertaining to cell and tissue structure. New upper division classes in forensic medicine will teach students how to investigate and evaluate physical evidence of crime-scene samples. This laboratory will have a 16-student capacity.
  • Medical Videoconferencing and Distance Learning Studio—This 700-square-foot studio will support online courses and continuing education workshops and seminars. It will be wired to the anatomical sciences laboratory for remote demonstrations of human anatomy.