Rutgers lab puts $9.6M in stimulus funding to work

A research center that houses samples used to explore disease treatments will open expanded facilities this summer after receiving federal grants.
The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, located on the school’s Busch Campus, in Piscataway, is renovating its lab space and completing construction on a new storage facility for research samples. Jay Tischfield, chair of the department of genetics and scientific director of the repository, said RUCDR researches genetic causes for complex diseases — work that may lead to new treatments.
Tischfield said the repository received $9.6 million in a construction grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the federal stimulus, to cover costs for a new space.
The stimulus funding will cover renovations of second-floor space of the university’s Nelson Laboratories, he said. RUCDR currently occupies 22,000 square feet of space in the building; the renovation of Nelson Labs will add 10,000 square feet, he said. Another building under construction for storage of samples will add 5,000 square feet of space. Tischfield said the expansions are expected to be complete by July.
 “Long term, we’re going to need a lot more space,” Tischfield said. “We double our size every three years.” The added space will accommodate the growing volume of work and consolidation of robotic instrumentation required to handle certain samples. “Right now, our robots are scattered all across campus,” Tischfield said.
Without the federal funding, he said, the university would have had to scale down the expansion to keep costs to one-third of the price. In fact, he said, the repository could not wait on federal grants, and began construction on a second, smaller building behind Nelson. Tischfield said this $3 million facility will be used to store samples.
RUCDR has been hiring more staff as the expansion progresses, with more than 30 permanent positions to be added, Tischfield said. Hiring already is under way, with additional shifts of researchers working at night in the current facilities.
“You don’t want to start hiring and training when you open the space,” he said. “It takes too long.”

In fiscal year 2010, more than $433.9 million of research at Rutgers was sponsored by the federal government, state government, corporations, and foundations, providing research experiences for undergraduates, support for graduate assistants and postdoctoral researchers, and bringing state–of–the–art equipment and facilities to our campuses.