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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 6, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 39
Montgomery Campus Eyes Research Opps

"We are looking to build something unique down there"

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The opening next month of the Montgomery County Campus' third building will represent a significant milestone for a university that will now be "fully engaged in securing a Hopkins-quality, significant research presence" on that campus, according to Gary Ostrander, associate provost for research at Johns Hopkins.

The 16-year-old Rockville, Md., campus, Ostrander said, is poised to become a fertile ground for opportunities for collaboration among the university, federal research labs and the private sector.

"We are looking to collaborate and build something unique down there," he said. "Much in the same way that the campus provides inroads for the community to Johns Hopkins, the campus can also provide inroads for Johns Hopkins to the federal labs and researchers in that area."

In every facet, the research activity at Montgomery County Campus will be designed to complement, not replace, any efforts at other university campuses, said Ostrander, who recently relinquished his duties as vice dean for research in the School of Arts and Sciences in order to devote more time to overseeing the development of the Montgomery County Campus. He now divides his time between his duties there and within university central administration and the School of Arts and Sciences. His office remains on the Homewood campus.

In addition to bringing much-needed classroom and academic space to the Montgomery County Campus, the new 115,000-square-foot Building III will include space to be leased to non-JHU tenants — primarily science- and technology-related companies, agencies or organizations — with which Johns Hopkins will establish academic, research or other collaborations, an effort that Ostrander said is already under way.

In April, CBH Research, a community-based, private sector clinical research organization, signed a 12-year lease for 18,414 square feet in Building III. CBH was established to promote clinical research as an important part of the approach toward understanding and treating mental illness.

The university has also opened on the campus an Integrated Imaging Center for live cell imaging. The center, whose director is Gary Brooker, a research professor in the Krieger School's Department of Biology, provides a variety of advanced and specialized light and fluorescence microscopic facilities and services that play an important role in research and discovery.

Ostrander said that there are 19 federal labs in and around Montgomery County, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, and more than 60 biotech companies of various sizes in the immediate area. "And a lot of these companies and labs are interested in partnering with Johns Hopkins in a very meaningful way," he said. "We are in the process of working out details to bring a real research presence to the campus. That is what we will be focused on, going further."

He said the university is currently in negotiations with several biotech companies to lease space in Building III and forge partnerships with the university. In addition, Hopkins has identified several scientists who have significant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and are interested in setting up lab space at the campus and teaching in the more than 60 degree and certificate programs offered there.

Opened in 1988, the Montgomery County Campus is located in the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center along the Interstate 270 corridor, a hotbed of biotechnology and information technology research. Its day and evening classes, which annually attract more than 5,000 students, are offered by the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Building III is the latest piece of the planned total buildout of the 35-acre site. Features of the new building include wet labs, computer labs, meeting space and a larger, 1,000-square-foot campus bookstore.

The master plan of the campus includes expansion over the next 10 years to seven buildings totaling 700,000 square feet of academic and research space.

Ostrander said that planning for construction on a fourth building will begin sometime after Building III is fully leased, which could happen in the next few weeks or months.

The physical expansion of the campus will allow the university to offer even more graduate degree programs, many of which help to train employees of biotechnology companies in the immediate area.

Elaine Amir, director of the Montgomery County Campus, said that an increased research and business presence on the campus undoubtedly will bring in new faculty and new students.

"There also will be more opportunity for collaborative partnerships [and] internships with our researchers and businesses," Amir said. "We do expect the course offerings to expand and enrollments to increase because more people will be drawn to a campus that has so much intellectual activity going on, on a daily basis."

Ostrander said that university officials are looking into the feasibility of allowing graduate students on a doctoral track at other JHU campuses to work with faculty who will be in the Montgomery Campus labs, an arrangement that would be similar to the one that allows students to conduct research work at the NIH.

As for future Johns Hopkins academic programs and research opportunities, "we encourage all the divisions to consider the Montgomery County Campus if they are looking to develop things in the D.C. area," Ostrander said.


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