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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s new advanced research center, Memphis, Tenn.

Description: A new era of scientific advancement is emerging at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the development of a new advanced research center. Designed as an interactive hub of exploration and discovery, the center will cultivate transformative research and collaboration and attract scientists and clinicians to St. Jude. Slated to break ground in spring 2018 and open in 2021, it is a major component of a $1 billion capital expansion of the St. Jude campus.

The advanced research center builds on the St. Jude legacy of innovations for understanding and treating childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Architecturally, it will be an interactive and interdisciplinary environment designed specifically for generating new ideas and teamwork. Its labs and spaces will enable researchers to collaborate openly and across departments. The center will stream natural light through skylights to atriums and an open-air courtyard and will feature numerous interaction zones uniting key disciplines of science.

The advanced research center will feature customized labs focusing on immunology, neurobiology, cell and molecular biology, metabolomics, epigenetics, genomics, immunotherapy and RNA biology. The center will also house key facilities and transformative technologies, including a state-of-the-art biorepository, a gene-editing center, a stem cell shared resource, and a cutting-edge advanced microscopy and image analysis core, all fully integrated with advanced information technology systems, high-speed connectivity and visualization tools to enhance local and distance information sharing and collaboration. The advanced research center propels St. Jude for the long term, accommodating growth for the next 20 years and beyond, with two of eight floors slated for future expansion and evolving technology.


The first floor will be dedicated to electrical service and lab gas storage and distribution with secured dock and receiving space to safely handle all materials, including hazardous wastes. It also includes a cryo-storage facility to help distribute our stored research cells and products in addition to the existing facility in the Danny Thomas Research Center. The first floor also will include meeting rooms sized to accommodate the research departments in the floors above. A café-like space will enable up to 100 researchers to eat breakfast and lunch, with the main dining facility at St. Jude remaining the primary option.

The second through seventh floors will comprise two lab wings set at a 30-degree angle separated by an open-air entryway and a smaller enclosed atrium space that is open from the second through seventh floors. This design purposefully fosters collaboration in several ways. The space will allow natural light to enter both the outside of the lab floor plates and the inside of the lab bars, which is further enhanced by the use of glass walls in the labs.

Existing labs have desk cubicles inside the labs which preclude food and drink, and the natural exchange of ideas. The new building will be lined inside and outside against the atrium with workspaces adjacent to the labs in a business occupancy office environment to promote collaboration. Huddle rooms are interspersed throughout these zones to facilitate small group collaborations in some privacy. The lab bars are connected across the atrium with a lunch common space visible floor to floor, and also features an open staircase that facilitates vertical as well as horizontal collaborations. The laboratories themselves are a cross between open and modular design, allowing flexible assignments of lab bench space and mentoring between full, associate or assistant faculty members. This space assignment mix has never been accomplished previously anywhere we know.

The principal investigators’ offices are housed on the open end of the lab bars close enough to the laboratories to maintain contact, but separated to take advantage of the views to the west of the campus quad. The eighth floor is primarily mechanical, but does include a small greeting hospitality space and an open green space also overlooking the quad.

The overall design of the advanced research center reflects the institution’s multidisciplinary focus and creates opportunities for collaboration and communication, desired features of a modern biomedical research facility.

Completion date: 2021