The first phase of the school's ambitious biotech park opens in October near TCF Bank Stadium.
Vance Opperman is a board director at TCF Financial Corp. and, come Sept. 12, he will watch the University of Minnesota play its first game at the new $288.5 million football stadium that the bank helped pay for.
But for Opperman, a prominent local venture capitalist and a University of Minnesota Law School alumnus, a much more important university facility will open the following month just across the street from TCF Bank Stadium: a 115,000-square-foot lab and office building that will be devoted to high-tech research in memory loss, brain diseases and immunology.
The Medical Biosciences building -- along with the existing McGuire Translational Research Facility, Lions Research Building and the Center for Magnetic Resonance and Research -- marks the first phase of an ambitious $292 million plan to develop a 700,000-square-foot biomedical research park on the east side of the U campus. Throw in investor Steve Burrill's plan to raise a $1 billion investment fund to back the Elk Run Biosciences Center in Pine Island, and Minnesota suddenly seems awash in biotech projects.
Despite some impressive research, the U has historically struggled to convert its discoveries into profit. A high-profile partnership with Mayo Clinic hatched two years ago has so far yielded few licensing deals and no start-ups. The U also spent $2 million on University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL), a biotech incubator in St. Paul that failed to meet expectations.
Star Tribune by Thomas Lee, 08/30/09