A Publication of WTVP

The continued success of the College of Medicine depends on our ability to recruit the best and brightest faculty. Visitors to Peoria are always astounded by our vibrant and advanced medical community. However, recruiting faculty with an interest in research requires laboratory space and research infrastructure. Fortunately, when it opens this fall, the expanded laboratory space created by the new Cancer Research Center will provide both.

Lab space was critical to the recruitment of noted cancer researcher Dr. Jasti Rao to Peoria in 2001. During the 10 years since his recruitment, Dr. Rao’s cancer research program has grown, and additional researchers have joined him. The program is so successful that lack of research space formed the impetus to build the lovely, new, state-of-the-art Cancer Research Center. In early October, the nearly 40 members of Dr. Rao’s cancer research team will move to occupy the entire second floor of the new building.

As Dr. Rao and his team move to the new building, other new researchers are moving into the space being vacated. Drs. Ai-Xuan and Mark Holterman are pediatric surgeons whose research interests are in liver and stem cells. They were recruited to Children’s Hospital of Illinois (CHOI), where their expertise at caring for sick children will help continue to grow that institution. At UICOMP, the Holtermans’ lab will investigate new uses for stem cells and also study an innovative model of liver disease. The presence of lab space at UICOMP was critical to their successful recruitment. Similarly, Dr. W. Davis Parker Jr., a CHOI pediatric neurologist, will move into existing expanded laboratory space to advance his research in genetic models of Parkinson’s disease. The availability of lab space is critical to the success of this model of shared recruitment and brings talented, difficult-to-recruit physician researchers to Peoria.

As planned, portions of the first floor of the new building currently contain shell space. The best and brightest cancer researchers have many opportunities, and it is challenging to recruit them. We believe that the opportunity to work with Dr. Rao’s successful cancer research program and occupy new, personalized laboratory space will recruit rising stars in the field. UICOMP’s Discovering Cures campaign is raising money to help fund the equipment and start-up costs of these new recruits and assist in filling the first-floor space as rapidly as possible.

We are proud of our researchers and the amazing discoveries they make. The expansion of laboratory space will increase the success of our existing researchers and make it easier for us to recruit additional talented laboratory researchers. The expanded availability of existing laboratory space will also help us recruit physicians with specialized clinical skills. We are proud of our community because your support has made possible this important growth in research laboratory space. iBi