Yerkes breaks ground on new facilities and new science

By Vincent Dollard | Emory Report | Dec. 13, 2011

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From left to right: Board of Trustees Chair Ben Johnson III; Executive Vice President for Health Affairs S. Wright Caughman; Yerkes National Primate Research Center Director Stuart Zola; and President Jim Wagner at the groundbreaking on Dec. 12.

On a gray December afternoon when temperatures dropped, hopes for exciting new research opportunities warmed the air at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.  Ben Johnson III, chair of Emory’s Board of Trustees, welcomed the bundled-up crowd to a groundbreaking ceremony launching construction of the Yerkes Dual-Function Facility, the Emory Institute for Drug Discovery and the Center for Innovative Genetics.

"The work to be done in these centers will be devoted to addressing research needs in key areas of national health priorities," said Johnson. He also noted the "tremendous growth" in research funding at Yerkes during his term as board chair, from $27 million in 2000 to nearly $71 million in 2011.

Stuart Zola, director of Yerkes National Primate Research Center, noted the meaning behind the definition of the word groundbreaking in his remarks to the standing room-only crowd. "Turning the sod, markedly innovative and original, and fresh and unusual," which, he said, "are all appropriate for this event and this place. There really is no place else in the world where this type of innovative and multidisciplinary research can be done."

An American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant is providing the funding for the construction of the 19,800-square-foot, three-story dual-function facility, which will address major unmet needs in tuberculosis and other emerging infectious disease threats, and will further the development of immune therapies to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with bone marrow, organ and tissue transplants. 

With the Emory Institute for Drug Discovery and the Center for Innovative Genetics also housed at Yerkes, the potential to foster increased researcher collaboration is greater than ever, which is key to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center's goal of transforming health and healing. 

"Yerkes, in so many ways embodies the missions and values of Emory, striving to advance knowledge in service to humanity," said President Jim Wagner. "Dr. Zola and his staff and faculty value excellence, stewardship of their resources, integrity, and accountability as they reach across disciplines to explore new ideas. Their diverse perspectives help make our collaborative community a powerhouse of discovery for the greater good."