Peoria has the people, the plan and the potential to cure cancer.

That may seem like a bold statement to many people, but it is the truth. And we now have a place to put it all to work. On August 16, 2010, ground was broken on a new cancer research facility at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria (UICOMP). This 20,000-square-foot, $10 million facility will be dedicated to finding a cure for cancer.

The cure for cancer lies in research, and we have top-notch research going on right here in our backyard. Dr. Jasti Rao is a world-renowned researcher working at UICOMP, and this new facility will be one of the largest research centers in the state. This will allow Dr. Rao to expand his cutting-edge research and attract other world-class scientists and physicians to work alongside him. We are able to add basic science to the clinical opportunities that are already in place. This means we will soon have more tools, more technology and more top-notch people who can get the job done.

This project is about research and state-of-the-art medical technology, but more importantly, it’s about relationships and teamwork. During the 10-plus years that have gone into this project, we have learned how to bring many different partners together. This project took collaboration from the worlds of academia and construction, as well as business and politics. Over the years, legislators crossed the aisle on the federal, state and local levels, and the public and private sides worked together. People were able to put their differences aside, address a huge problem, put the focus on the end game and then…get it done. That’s the Midwestern way.

The Heartland Partnership is proud to be part of this project because of what it represents. We were able to draw resources together and turn a concept of curing cancer into something concrete and attainable. I have had people ask me how I can say we can cure cancer in Peoria. I say it’s easy to explain. Decades ago, this region came together and figured out how to mass-produce penicillin. This region combined its resources and found a way to do something that changed the landscape of the human condition forever. This is the same thing. While it may take years to cure cancer, we have started the same process we did back in the 1920s. The point is we have done this before. So why can’t we do it again?

We haven’t crossed the finish line yet. We have ongoing funding needs that will have to be met, but we have cleared a major hurdle and the end is in sight. iBi