Originally created 03/09/06

Cancer research center to be unveiled



Daniel W. Rahn noticed it right away Wednesday when he walked into the new $54 million Cancer Research Center at the Medical College of Georgia.

"This doesn't look ready," MCG's president joked as he walked past cardboard on the floor, a ladder, and a coil of tubing in the lobby. It will be, he was assured.

On Friday, MCG will unveil the new five-story, 167,000-square-foot building that could help fuel the school's push to become a top-rated cancer center. Dr. Rahn took a quick look at some of the areas that will be toured and got an update from David E. Smith, the director of facilities management, and J. Michael Ash, the vice president for administration.

Most of the work on the building is cleanup at this point, Mr. Smith said, and some furniture still needs to be moved in.

"Good, this is good," Dr. Rahn said as he looked around the spacious but bare director's office on the second floor. "Going to eventually need a desk here."

The new director will get to pick that, he said. That new director is a crucial piece of the effort by MCG to drive toward designation as a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. There is currently none in Georgia and South Carolina.

"And (the director) will be the key person in serving as the focal point of recruitment and program development," Dr. Rahn said.

One floor of the new building will be at the disposal of the new center director, who MCG hopes will bring a well-established research program and be a physician-scientist. The new director will also have a say in the build-out of two of the lab floors. The Georgia Research Alliance will pay to complete one floor, and MCG has a $1 million challenge grant from a foundation and is raising the other $2.5 million to complete it, Dr. Rahn said.

"I hope we're very close, but we don't have an offer out there" to a director candidate, he said.

The research labs are clearly the highlight, with dozens of lab benches that stretch down the length of the building.

"Look at this, look at this," Dr. Rahn said excitedly. "Isn't that great? I just love this."

And it is more than just a pretty space - as the funding for research at the National Institutes of Health has flattened out, so has MCG's research funding, he said.

"We think that now with this as a resource, and the resources we've been able to pull together in cancer, we're going to see another jump" in funding, Dr. Rahn said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

The Medical College of Georgia will unveil its new $54 million Cancer Research Center at 1:30 p.m. Friday to state and local dignitaries, including Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and new University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr.