Governor Dan McKee
Governor Dan McKee. Photo courtesy of Governor Dan McKee Facebook Page

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee was joined by Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation, legislative leaders, Brown University, and development partner Ancora L&G to break ground on a 212,000 square foot, 7-story building that will house the State’s new health lab, life sciences labs for Brown University, and additional bio-technology space in the state’s Innovation and Design District on the former I-195 land.

“Rhode Island has momentum – and this project is crucial to ensuring the momentum continues in the areas of public health and our life sciences economy,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We’re grateful for the partners who came together to ensure Rhode Island maximizes this significant economic development opportunity while advancing the state’s important public health goals.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) State Health Laboratories will anchor the facility, with the remaining floors available to academic and industry partners in the biotechnology field. The 80,000-square-foot state-of-the-art State Health Laboratories will provide updated and flexible space to accommodate biological and chemical testing for a variety of infectious disease, environmental, and forensic testing services.

“The construction of this new facility in Rhode Island is essential to our efforts to strengthen the nation’s capacity to prevent and rapidly respond to any public health event,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH. “Investments like these are critical to help equitably protect the health, safety, and security of all. We look forward to the benefits that this facility will bring to Rhode Island and surrounding areas.”

To help attract additional tenants and encourage a thriving mix of public and private entities focused on health and medicine, Brown University has signed a letter of intent with Ancora to lease 20,000 square feet of laboratory space in the building.

Josh Parker, CEO of Ancora L&G, said, “We are delighted to have been selected as the developer for the RIDOH State Health Laboratories. The development will deliver much-needed infrastructure for Rhode Island, including state-of-the-art public health labs that will enhance the State’s ability to test for and manage a broad range of infectious diseases and illnesses, together with private-sector lab space to support expansion of the area’s growing bioscience ecosystem. We are excited to be working on this project, demonstrating our ability to deliver against the needs of our anchor institution partners.”

This public/private partnership follows a condominium model with ownership of the State Health Laboratories unit conveyed to the State of Rhode Island on completion, and Ancora L&G retaining ownership of the private laboratory space. Funding for the $81.7 million state laboratory comes from an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The total project cost is expected to be $165 million.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline helped secure federal funding for the state health lab in the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2) and $81.7 million of this funding was directed to Rhode Island under the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant program, which is administered by the CDC. The total project cost is expected to be $165 million.

“The new state health lab will be cutting edge. It will bring together public health resources and academic research to protect and promote the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders. It will have advanced capabilities for things like testing for blood lead levels, monitoring air and water pollution, to supporting infectious disease outbreak and surveillance investigations,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed.

“I’m pleased that the state has selected the former 195 land for our new federally funded state-of-the-art public health lab,” said U.S. Senator Whitehouse. “The significant federal investment we secured will help keep Rhode Islanders safe from infectious diseases and add a landmark addition to the District’s growing life sciences cluster.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that preparedness is key when public health emergencies strike,” said U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin. “I’m thrilled that Governor McKee and his administration are partnering with Ancora L&G to expand our public health infrastructure by breaking ground on a new state health lab. This facility will help ensure that we have state-of-the-art technology at the ready if and when the next crisis arrives. In the meantime, it will deliver fast and reliable medical results to patients all across Rhode Island.”

“This CDC grant and public-private partnership will create critically needed bioscience infrastructure in Rhode Island,” said U.S. Congressman David Cicilline. “The new facility will provide a modern space for the state’s Department of Health and other scientists to conduct cutting-edge research, helping to ensure we are prepared to identify and respond to new viruses and infectious diseases. I’m thrilled to be breaking ground on this new facility, and am excited to see the groundbreaking innovation that it will support.”

The project is the result of a multi-partner collaboration, which alongside Ancora L&G and its development partner GRE, a regional development services company serving the Science and Technology sector, includes the RI Department of Administration, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, the RI Commerce Corporation, the RI Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and RIDOH.

Building on its long-standing commitment to supporting Jewelry District projects that contribute to the economic vitality of the city and the state, Brown University has signed a letter of intent with Ancora Partners to lease 20,000 square feet of laboratory space in the building for a period of 10 years. Brown has a substantial amount of academic activity relevant to the mission of RIDOH located nearby, including education and research at the Warren Alpert Medical School, Laboratories for Molecular Medicine and School of Public Health. This summer, Brown began work toward creating an integrated life sciences building in the district and simultaneously developed an expansive plan to significantly increase the impact of its research benefiting communities locally, nationally and globally.

“The pandemic proved how critical it is to have a modern State Health Lab to meet such increased health demands,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio. “We strongly support this facility, and we are pleased the federal government provided funding to enable our state to make such an important investment.”

“When we can fulfill our academic needs for additional space to advance high-impact research, and at the same time spark investments from new commercial partners, we see benefits not just for Brown, but also for the economic vitality of Providence and Rhode Island,” said Brown University President Christina H. Paxson. “We are excited to see this latest joint effort between state and federal leaders, Ancora L&G and Brown bring RIDOH to the Jewelry District. This new life sciences development is an ideal illustration of how we can have a bigger impact together than any one of us could have individually.”

“This public-private partnership is exactly the catalyst needed to propel life science development in the District,” said Robert Davis, Chairman of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission. “The 130,000 square feet of private lab space could not have been built except through this kind of partnership and its presence will pave the way for more life science businesses to grow and energize Rhode Island’s economy.”

With 50,000 square feet of direct usable space, the new lab will offer a larger, more modern and technologically advanced workspace than the current state health lab located at 50 Orms Street. Like the Orms Street location, the new lab will include a Biosafety Level 3 facility and will be able to provide critical services for a variety of infectious disease, environmental, and forensic testing needs. The updated space will allow the State Health Laboratory to be more flexible in response to emerging threats and applying new technologies including the expanding field of genome sequencing.

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