President Christina Paxson says the university will locate its ‘translational science complex’ near its school of medicine

Brown University will expand its presence in the Jewelry District in Providence with a “translational science complex” that would complement the proposed investment by a Baltimore company for a life-sciences center on the former Route 195 land, Brown President Christina Paxson told nearly 700 business and civic leaders Monday evening.

She defined “translational science” as the new frontier of discovery and commercial enterprise that draws on medicine, brain science, bioengineering, computer science, big data and other areas that are fertile for “breakthrough solutions” and products.

Paxson said the new center would extend the $200 million in investment Brown has already made in the Jewelry District with its medical school and its tenancy in the South Street Landing project in the old power plant on the Providence River.

“Brown’s approach has been — and will continue to be — to encourage and participate in public-private partnerships that stimulate economic expansion, incubate innovation and bring stakeholders together,” Paxson said.

Paxson did not identify the location of the center or any specific dollar amount for Brown’s investment in the complex.

Paxson made the announcement at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner at the Rhode Island Convention Center. The event also featured a presentation by Wexford Science and Technology, the Baltimore company that’s planning to build a 1-million-square-foot life-sciences complex on the 195 land. The company hopes to build laboratory and office space, research facilities, a hotel and residential and retail spaces.

Paxson said she’s thrilled that Wexford has invested in Providence and intends to build a life-sciences complex in the capital. She also wants Brown to be the “anchor tenant” in Governor Raimondo’s efforts to rebuild Rhode Island’s economy, she said.

“So Brown is really all in here,” Paxson said.

Raimondo told the crowd that developing the 195 land is a key component of her economic-development plan to rebuild Rhode Island’s old economy with a new economy based on innovation. She also praised Paxson as a “phenomenal partner” and said her leadership is critical for rebuilding Rhode Island’s economy.

James R. Berens, founder and president of Wexford, outlined for the crowd his plans for partnering with universities in Rhode Island as the company has done in 10 other locations with 12 major universities around the country.

He said the same elements that helped rebuild Winston-Salem, an old North Carolina city based on the tobacco industry and R.J. Reynolds, exist in Providence, but he said Rhode Island’s capital has more assets than Winston-Salem had. He said those elements of success include available real estate, such as the 195 land, commitment from universities with high-quality research, private-industry commitment and “seamless cooperation” among political, business and institutional leaders.

Berens said such projects require public incentives and subsidies: “They are critical,” Berens told the audience.

Berens noted that Wexford is already working in Rhode Island with two new university partners, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island. They’re working with CV Properties of Boston, led by Richard Galvin, in the South Street Landing renovation project near the former 195 land. Brown will move administrative offices into that facility that will house a shared nursing facility for the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

Berens said Wexford has signed a letter of intent with the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to buy 5 acres — two parcels, 22 and 25. He said they’re working on a purchase and sales agreement that he hopes will be signed by year’s end.

But he said Wexford has no commitments yet from tenants or leases signed to use the laboratory and office space Wexford hopes to build here.

Berens said he’s also negotiating with executives at the Cambridge Innovation Center, the highly regarded research hub in Massachusetts that is a tenant in Wexford’s life-sciences hub in St. Louis, about potentially locating in Providence. Raimondo said the Cambridge Innovation Center is the kind of tenant she hopes would locate in Providence.

Paxson said her plans for the Jewelry District are part of the university’s long-term strategy that will be funded with the largest fundraising campaign in its history, the $3-billion campaign the university announced in October. Beyond the translational science complex, Paxson also spoke about expanding the university’s work at the Brown Institute for Brain Science, where in collaboration with URI and health-care partners, researchers are seeking new ways to treat Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Source: Providence Journal by Kate Bramson