Penn State Behrend opens new biomedical research lab

Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford and other partners cut the ribbon to open the new translational research lab at Penn State Behrend.

Partners in the Magee-Womens Research Institute of Erie dedicated a new biomedical translational research lab at Penn State Behrend on June 24. 

Credit: Penn State Behrend

ERIE, Pa. — A new biomedical translational research lab at Penn State Behrend will support local medical clinical trials and expand research opportunities for students in the college’s new biochemistry and molecular biology minor.

The lab, which was dedicated on June 24, also advances the Magee-Womens Research Institute of Erie, a $26 million women’s health initiative. Behrend is the academic research and commercialization partner for MWRI-Erie, which already has begun six clinical research trials.

“While we don’t yet know exactly where the research in this lab will lead,” Chancellor Ralph Ford said at the dedication ceremony, “we know that our students and faculty, working alongside the MWRI-Erie team, will foster the discoveries that can lead to viable products, services and commercial start-ups.”

The 2,200-square-foot lab is located on the second floor of the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center. It includes a cell-culture lab, an advanced microscopy lab and flex space where faculty and undergraduate student researchers will collaborate.

A second MWRI-affiliated research space — the advanced molecular biology teaching lab in the Otto Behrend Science Building — opened in December.

“These research spaces provide an opportunity for our students to be part of collaborative research teams,” said Ivor Knight, associate dean for research and graduate studies at Behrend. “That’s a game-changer, in terms of career preparation. But the real impact will be felt outside of the lab: The work we do in here will directly contribute to new treatments and medical interventions that will improve the health of women in and beyond Erie.”

The Behrend labs build on MWRI-Erie’s early momentum: The initiative, a partnership of Penn State Behrend, UPMC, the Hamot Health Foundation and the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, expands the reach of MWRI, which is the largest research institute in the United States devoted exclusively to the health of women and infants.

Six locally focused, clinical medical trials already are underway, including studies of preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and post-operative cognitive impairment. Local researchers also have created an obstetric maternal and infant biobank.

Two new research facilities at UPMC Hamot are supporting that work. An Obstetric Specimen Procurement Unit opened in December, and a clinical translational research center opened in March.

“We are actively recruiting clinicians, nurses, investigators and support staff for this ambitious project,” said Dr. Halina Zyczynski, the medical director of MWRI-Erie. “It’s exciting for Erie to invest in the cornerstones of urban revitalization, including health care, research and education, and I look forward to having a greater presence in this community.”