November 10, 2003 — Officials at the University of Utah’s John A. Moran Eye Center today announced a $10 million grant from the ALSAM Foundation to help fund construction of a new 200,000 square-foot facility. The grant allows the center to begin work on its $53 million project by the end of November. A formal groundbreaking is planned for early spring.
“This gift puts us over the top and ahead of schedule,” said Randall J Olson, M.D., center director and professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. The ALSAM grant is the second largest private commitment to the project and comes two and half years after University of Utah alumnus John A. Moran kicked off the center’s fund-raising campaign with a donation of $18 million.
“I am pleased the ALSAM Foundation has chosen to share in the important work of the John A. Moran Eye Center and our mission to find cures and treatments for blinding eye diseases,” said Olson.
The new building (to be located directly west of University of Utah Hospital and south of Primary Children’s Medical Center) will completely replace the 82,500 square-foot John A. Moran Eye Center that opened in 1993. The current building will be used by the University to house other health sciences departments.
“There is no other eye center in the world that has had the chance to design and open a state-of-the-art eye center, and then in 10 years, do it again,” said Eric M. Lasater, Ph.D., professor and vice chairman of the U of U’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the center’s research programs.
“This new facility will more than triple the amount of laboratory space available and will allow us to house all of our vision research teams in the same building,” he said. The center’s 42 faculty members are currently located in four buildings on the University campus and 10 satellite clinics across the Wasatch Front. Since 1999, the number of faculty at the center has nearly doubled.
“Good research comes through collaboration. We have gone to great lengths to bring the best and brightest minds in vision research to Utah over the past five years. I’m pleased to announce this new building will be worthy of the caliber of scientists it will become home to,” he said.
Vision research at the center is focused on a number of areas including: artificial vision, ophthalmic genetics, retinal cell communication, and retinal cell transplantation and vision restoration. In addition, the center is home to the David J. Apple, M.D., Laboratories for Ophthalmic Devices Research. The laboratory is the largest of its kind devoted to the study of intraocular lenses used in cataract surgery. The new building will also house the Michael Wynn Center for Inherited Retinal Degeneration. The center is home to one of the leading genetic research groups in the world.
In addition to expanded research space, the new John A. Moran Eye Center will feature expanded clinical and surgical space to accommodate the growing number of patients requiring specialized eye care. The new center will also house the Utah Lions Eye Bank that collects, screens and distributes eye tissue for corneal transplants around the state.
According to Lasater, who is directing the project for the department, work on the new building can start immediately because of the design work already completed by Salt Lake City architectural firm FFKR. “We have been working very hard with FFKR over the past two years to design a building that meets the unique expectations and requirements of both our vision researchers and clinicians. I’m pleased to report that our hard work has paid off.” Utah-based Layton Construction, which won the bid for the project, expects the new building will be open for business by early 2006.
While Olson is pleased fundraising and construction of the building is ahead of schedule, he says additional funding will be required to fully equip the building and pay for ongoing research. “We’re not completely out of the woods in regards to funding. Our success and future breakthroughs in vision research are in large part determined by the generosity of private citizens. Ongoing private support is vital to our mission. The successful opening of this building in a few years will necessitate the start of an ongoing fundraising campaign to keep Utah at the forefront of vision research.”
Those interested in contributing to research programs at the Moran Eye Center can call the center’s Development Office at 801-585-9700 or visit www.moraneyecenter.org.
About the John A. Moran Eye Center
The University of Utah’s John A. Moran Eye Center is the largest vision research and treatment center between Texas and the West Coast. The center employs 42 faculty members, 300 employees, and features 10 satellite locations that host more than 80,000 patient visits each year. The center takes a comprehensive approach to fighting blindness and its researchers approach their work from both a biological and human engineering approach. Major research areas include: artificial vision, ophthalmic genetis, retinal cell communication, and retinal cell transplantation and vision restoration.