The most recent research facility added to the Texas Medical Center (TMC) is designed to advance the Methodist Hospital's mission of curing diseases through innovative translational research. The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI), which opened in October 2010, is equipped with the most sophisticated technology to help research scientists, physicians, and engineers develop cures and treatments for patients.
“Our approach is genuinely multidisciplinary,” says Mauro Ferrari, president and CEO of TMHRI. “It’s fueled by unrestrained creativity, driven by new technology, aggressively focused on human disease, and it’s being done both literally and figuratively just steps from the patient’s bedside.”
The bench-to-bedside research approach is intended to speed the translation of promising laboratory discoveries into new medical treatments. The new building’s design provides an environment to facilitate multidisciplinary research and encourage the collaboration that is needed between scientists and clinicians. For example, six floors of open research space, housing a variety of laboratories and support areas, create an ideal setting to promote collaboration as researchers study new treatments for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infectious diseases, neurological disorders, and other conditions.
Open laboratories include both fixed and movable furnishings to create an adaptable environment to support the interdisciplinary science of today and tomorrow. The laboratory benches are vertically adjustable and connect to utilities mounted on overhead ceiling service panels. Mechanical, electrical, and piping utilities are distributed in a modular manner to allow for easy modification or extension as the research needs change. Electrical panels located immediately outside each laboratory also allow for future change. Critical service rooms, accessible pipe chases, and ceiling zones are designed to accommodate changing research needs, as well.
The institute contains a full complement of advanced core facilities, including an imaging and molecular suite, state-of-the-art equipment, and even its own cyclotron. Additional core and shared facilities include a data-immersive visualization environment, vivaria with interstitial space to support pre-clinical models, a surgery training facility, a full array of nuclear medicine equipment, and current Good Manufacturing Practices, including a cleanroom and production labs for on-site production of molecules, medications, and vaccines.
The location of the 12-story, 440,000-sf TMHRI adjacent to the main building of the Methodist Hospital further enhances the bench-to-bedside methodology by providing a physical link between the researchers and clinicians. Situated on the east side of the 1,000-bed hospital with several connections to the facility’s public and private areas, the institute brings researchers in direct contact with the patients they are trying to help.
“Working with the visionary team at The Methodist Hospital, the focus was clearly on collaboration,” says Peter Lotz, a principal at WHR Architects, the project’s executive architect. “As we designed the next generation of lab spaces for multidisciplinary teams that include medical doctors, PhDs, engineers, chemists, and biomedical and nanomedical researchers, our own team approach was inclusive and integrated in order to deliver the best possible design solutions.”
The flexible design provides labs, offices, and amenities for 90 principal investigators along with 800 post-docs, trainees, and staff members. Common breakout areas connect the labs vertically, encouraging interdisciplinary communication and providing opportunities for informal gatherings.
Three open-area stairways connect various laboratory floors to provide the vertical linkage to enhance collaboration. The common areas include nine coffee bars and lounges where scientists can gather and discuss their work. In addition, the location of TMHRI on the North Campus of the Texas Medical Center makes its auditorium a popular destination for meetings and presentations that extend beyond The Methodist Hospital to other institutions in the TMC system, as well as national organizations like the National Institutes of Health.
“We sought to provide well designed, flexible labs, along with a range of gathering spaces for the hospital and research community,” notes Jill Lerner, a principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, which served as the design architect. “The architecture creates a dramatic presence with its curved façade, presenting a welcoming entry to the institute at the heart of the Texas Medical Center.”