Columbia Breaks Ground on New Biomedical Research Building

World-class science facility at Columbia’s medical campus in Washington Heights will set new standards for sustainability

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) broke ground on an eight-story biomedical research building in Washington Heights in New York City. The flagship facility, located at the intersection of West 167th Street and Audubon Avenue, will house state-of-art research laboratories and community engagement spaces, and will be the first university-owned research building in New York City that does not rely on fossil fuels.

Minouche Shafik and Katrina Armstrong (Credit: Jenny Gorman)

Katrina Armstrong, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and executive vice president for Health and Biomedical Sciences at Columbia University, and Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University, were joined by elected officials, philanthropists, community members, faculty, and students in a ceremony to commemorate the start of construction on the biomedical research building.

“We’re in a time in medicine and science that is truly incredible. We have an opportunity to advance science and technology to improve lives and care for patients in ways that I never had anticipated when I first moved into medicine,” said Armstrong in her remarks. “Our new biomedical research building is an integral part of our vision for the future of science at VP&S—and of a sustainable model for science that can set a standard for New York City and for our country.”

“This building’s world-class research facilities will enable our scientists to generate new knowledge that will take humanity forward with good health. Using the latest tools and best knowledge in science to tackle problems of human health and disease, Columbia’s biomedical scientists are transforming medical care,” said Shafik.

Rendering of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S)’s new biomedical research building

Rendering of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons’ new biomedical research building (Credit: Kohn Pedersen Fox)

VP&S physicians and scientists have conducted Nobel Prize-winning biomedical research, run clinical trials, and developed treatments that have transformed medical care. The new research building will significantly boost these efforts and become the main hub for Columbia’s mission to develop treatments for some of the most significant threats to human health.

“A major focus of the critical research to be advanced in this building will be to harness genetic and genomic science to make tremendous strides in treating neurodegenerative diseases and cancers,” said Roy Vagelos, chair of the VP&S Board of Advisors. These efforts will also include a collaboration with departments across the university to create a next-generation cell therapy program called the Columbia Initiative for Cell Engineering and Therapy. “This is going to be a beautiful building that is going to house some of the best scientists in the world.”

Adriano Espaillat, Katrina Armstrong, Roy Vagelos, and Diana Vagelos (Credit: Jenny Gorman)

Columbia’s new research facility will not rely on fossil fuels and will use significantly less energy than similar buildings of its kind, achieving the highest level of sustainability in scientific research infrastructure to date in New York City.

Credit: Jenny Gorman

“Columbia newest biomedical research building will be a pioneer in sustainability for research facilities around the nation, and I was honored to join this week’s groundbreaking ceremony,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “There are tremendous challenges facing our globally connected society, especially as it pertains to the environment and climate, and these issues will be addressed through research while setting the stage for cleaning up Mother Earth and ensuring a more viable and sustainable future. The new building is proof that New York City is yet again leading the way in innovation, technology, and research, and I look forward to all that will be accomplished at this new location.”

“Columbia University continues to be on the cutting edge, and the Irving Medical Center's new biomedical research building will only further their leadership as one of the world’s great centers of research, discovery, and treatment,” said Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor for housing, economic development and workforce.  “As the city's first all-electric research building, Columbia will also serve as a model for transitioning to a fully decarbonized New York City. Congratulations to the Columbia team that made this groundbreaking possible and continue to push our city forward in the life sciences and in climate-forward policies." 

Columbia’s biomedical research building is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The building will feature unique collaboration corners between research spaces that will help facilitate spontaneous interactions and idea-sharing among scientists. Biophilic elements such as green walls of living plants and the extensive use of natural, renewable materials will help reduce work fatigue and provide health and environmental benefits.

Columbia Breaks Ground on New Biomedical Research Building