‘Life-changing impact’: Ivey’s support enables ‘transformational’ UAB precision medicine project to proceed
What could end up being one of the most important projects in Alabama’s history received the funding needed to move forward on Thursday.
As part of an almost $300 million in total funding for Alabama Public School and College Authority (PSCA) projects announced by Governor Kay Ivey, a planned state-of-the-art genomics facility at the University of Alabama (UAB) will be able to be built.
UAB is a part of the University of Alabama System; UA System leaders, as reported previously by Yellowhammer News, believe the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine” and have made securing the necessary funding for the facility their top priority since the project’s inception.
This was reiterated on Thursday afternoon by UA System Chancellor Finis E. “Fess” St. John, IV, in a release after the funding news was revealed by the governor’s office.
UAB has already secured a generous $10 million donation from Lee Styslinger, III, and the Altec/Styslinger Foundation. As such, the university plans to name the facility the “Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Research Building.” UAB has further secured $8 million in federal funding for the project, thanks to the support of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).
A final $50 million in funding was needed to build the world-class facility — funding which the State of Alabama on Thursday officially committed to providing through the PSCA.
“We deeply appreciate Governor Kay Ivey’s $50 million commitment to the Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building at UAB,” St. John said in a statement.
“This transformational research facility will have a life-changing impact on the citizens of Alabama for generations to come while improving health care delivery around the world,” he continued.
UA System leadership has been integrally involved in building a strong, bipartisan coalition of public and private sector partners to bring this project to fruition.
“In addition to the Governor’s foresight and dedication to this project, today’s announcement would not have been possible without the support of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, the Birmingham City Council, the Jefferson County Commission, the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation and a generous gift from the Altec/Styslinger Foundation,” St. John emphasized.
Key champions of the project in the state legislature reportedly included Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia) and Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham).
At a meeting of the UA System’s board of trustees earlier this year at UAB, St. John stressed that the genomics project could have a profound impact on Alabama similar to the likes of NASA and Redstone Arsenal, Mercedes-Benz, and the Port of Mobile. He called the project a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and added that it is an opportunity “to improve the lives of our citizens in a way which may never occur again.”
On Thursday, UAB President Ray L. Watts reaffirmed the historic potential of the project.
“Recognizing this rare opportunity for our state, Chancellor St. John, the University of Alabama System and the Board of Trustees made this transformational project their top priority,” Watts said. “We share a great appreciation for Governor Ivey’s affirmation and visionary leadership that will allow UAB and Alabama to be a leader in the future of precision medicine.”
Watts noted that Ivey’s support for the project is an investment in every Alabama citizen.
“This facility will accelerate advancements in precision medicine, informatics and data sciences as we gain greater understanding of the role our genes and the environment play in major human diseases,” he advised.
Dr. Selwyn Vickers, senior vice president of Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine at UAB, estimates that the building — once completed — will bring in more than 50 additional leading researchers and 300 research support staff to the university. This is projected to generate an increase of $75-80 million in research funding for UAB.
“This facility will be pivotal to recruiting and retaining high-level researchers,” Vickers concluded. “We are already on the leading edge, but this facility will increase our competitive advantage in supporting researchers who will bolster our local economy.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn