Whole body, whole world in CSHL’s new Demerec lab

Therapeutic: Governor Andrew Cuomo and friends ceremoniously welcome Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's new Center for Therapeutic Research.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A world-class scientific institution has gotten worldlier, and classier, with a $75 million upgrade focused squarely on cancer research.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory this week cut the ribbon on its Center for Therapeutics Research, located inside a significantly renovated Demerec Laboratory Building, which is ready to rock following a two-year retuning.

The transformation of the Demerec building, opened in 1953 and named for Croatian-American geneticist Milislav Demerec, into a state-of-the-art therapeutics-research facility was fueled by a $25 million capital grant issued by New York State in 2016 – another cornerstone investment by Albany in Long Island biotech, which has earned some $250 million in state investments since 2011.

The $25 million stipend actually covered the reconstruction project – CSHL raised the additional $50 million, a 2:1 private/public investment that also covered faculty recruitment, startup costs, early research projects and about five years of operations, according to the governor’s office.

Bruce Stillman: Global ambition.

The $75 million buy-in is money well spent, according to Cuomo, who joined a who’s-who of CSHL representatives and regional rainmakers to officially open the new Center for Therapeutics Research on Wednesday.

“[Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory] alone has created 25 businesses,” the governor said. “All these things connect. You generate the economy, you generate the spinoffs, and you go from there.

“And we have been investing in this,” Cuomo added. “Not just Cold Spring, but Northwell [Health], Hofstra, Stony Brook (University), the Feinstein Institute, Brookhaven, and that is generating an economy that is building and will continue to build.”

Among Albany’s big-ticket support of regional bioscience in recent years: $30 million for a separate CSHL neuroscience complex, $15 million toward an electron microscope building at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and $75 million for SBU’s forthcoming Institute for Discovery and Innovation in Medicine & Engineering.

The governor’s Regional Economic Development Council system has also made biotech-focused investments in Hofstra University and Northwell’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research a Long Island priority – but this week, all eyes were on CSHL and its shiny new space.

The 26,000-square-foot Demerec Laboratory Building looks virtually unchanged from the outside – its historic 1950s exterior remains largely unaltered – but it’s been gutted and extensively renovated inside.

Walking tour: Stillman (right) gives Gov. Andrew Cuomo a Demerec Laboratory history lesson.

Designed for a more holistic approach to treating cancer and its effects on the entire body, the Center for Therapeutics Research is a biomedical marvel, built for cross-disciplinary study of gene editing, quantitative biology and other cutting-edge neurosciences.

Stocked with impressive equipment and even more impressive minds, the new center – which generates 30 new scientific staff positions while retaining 25, according to Cuomo’s office – is well-prepared to carry on the Demerec Laboratory’s proud tradition, which includes serving as the primary workspace for four of CSHL’s eight Nobel Prize laureates.

Big shoes to fill, admits CSHL President and CEO Bruce Stillman, but “thanks to the vision of our New York State leaders and many dedicated public servants and private supporters,” Cold Spring Harbor’s mecca of scientific research is ready to step up.

“While the Demerec building is comparatively smaller than larger projects that the governor has initiated … it is arguably one the most productive buildings in all of science,” Stillman said Wednesday. “This renovation allows us to really think about where the lab will take things next.

“It will have, I hope, a global impact on the research community, especially in the biomedical sciences.”