Healthcare innovation took another leap forward at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus on Aug. 12 with the groundbreaking of Bioscience 5, a cutting-edge hub for cell and gene therapy manufacturing.
The 90,000-square-foot facility will be the first building in Fitzsimons Innovation Community with full-scale manufacturing for cell and gene therapy. It’s designed to support its member companies’ development and optimize the scientific advancements within the Fitzsimons Innovation Community ecosystem.
Colorado’s life sciences companies raised a record $704 million in the first quarter of 2021. Since 2017, employment has climbed 15.6% in the U.S. life sciences industry, outpacing the red-hot high-tech industry in growth.
“It’s a very exciting time to be in life sciences, but it’s also a very exciting time to see all of our campus partners coming together here to make this a really special place,” said Steve VanNurden, president and CEO of Fitzsimons Innovation Community. VanNurden was joined at the groundbreaking, attended by more than 85 people, by speakers including CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman, CU President Todd Saliman and Aurora Mayor Michael Coffman.
Over 80 companies already on board
A state-of-the-art, flexible facility, Bioscience 5 is expected to open in spring 2022. It represents the next stage of planned expansion for Fitzsimons Innovation Community, which currently encompasses four buildings dedicated to advancing life sciences discoveries. Over 80 companies are already located at Fitzsimons Innovation Community on the north side of Montview Boulevard, allowing them to partner with CU Anschutz clinicians and researchers “for the benefit of patients worldwide,” VanNurden said.
Breaking ground on the future site of the Bioscience 5 building are, from left: Steve VanNurden, president and CEO of Fitzsimons Innovation Community; Don Elliman, CU Anschutz chancellor; Michael Coffman, mayor of Aurora; and Todd Saliman, CU president.
“Bioscience 5 represents a strategic alignment of the Fitzsimons Innovation Community pipeline of cell and gene therapy expertise that’s across the street,” he said. “We’re directly aligned (with CU Anschutz) to improve the lives of patients who are treated for cancer and other diseases today.”
VanNurden noted that Bioscience 3, which is 70% leased, opened last year and that the Bioscience 4 building is in the planning stages. Fitzsimons Innovation Community has up to 70 acres available for life sciences development.
“There are over 1,000 cell and gene therapy developers and clinical trials ongoing now worldwide,” he said. “These companies raised $15.9 billion in just the first three quarters of 2020. Fitzsimons Innovation Community is home to a number of these companies … and the addition of Bioscience 5 enables Fitzsimons Innovation Community to support companies from initial concept all the way to manufacturing of a commercial product right here on our Colorado campus.”
‘Field of Dreams’
Chancellor Elliman called Bioscience 5 another exciting milestone for Fitzsimons Innovation Community and CU Anschutz, which are “betting heavily” on the importance of cell and gene therapy manufacturing. “This is a bit of a ‘Field of Dreams: Build it, and they will come.’ I am 100% confident that, not unlike the baseball field in the middle of Iowa, they will be coming here, and they will be coming here soon.”
‘Our mission is simple. It’s healthcare innovation. It’s who we are, and it’s what we do. Everybody on this campus is focused on that, and people make it happen.’ – CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman
Innovative facilities such as the Bioscience buildings are necessary to continue to attract top-quality talent to CU Anschutz and Fitzsimons Innovation Community, Elliman said.
“To have five health science schools, two great hospitals and this (innovation) district on the other side of the street to latch on to … is a major plus for us,” the chancellor said. “Our mission is simple. It’s healthcare innovation. It’s who we are, and it’s what we do. Everybody on this campus is focused on that, and people make it happen.”
Commitment to innovation and transformation
Saliman praised the vision of campus leaders, who dreamed big many years ago when the campus was essentially just Building 500 (now the Fitzsimons Building) and an under-construction Education 1 building. He also acknowledged the steadfast support of elected officials, including Mayor Coffman. “This is a partnership all the way from Washington, D.C., to the city of Aurora.”
Saliman said CU contributes $14 billion annually to the economy of Colorado, bringing with it “this incredible commitment to innovation and transformation – and you all are what make that happen.”
Coffman noted how his father, a career soldier, spent the second half of his career at the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, which occupied what is now the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
While impressed with CU Anschutz’s strides to become a national leader in healthcare and research, Coffman said it’s important to remain cognizant that “we are not alone in this space – there are other major players in terms of urban areas that are competing against us.
“So, this is a great day, and I look forward to a lot more great days like this as we proceed into the future.”