Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute expands research lab in Springfield

By Jennifer Heshion

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The Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI) announced the beginning of a $4.3 million project on April 13, to expand the research space of the former engineering manufacturing building in Springfield thus making way for a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility.

As the latest in a series of collaborations between the University of Massachusetts and the city of Springfield, the PVLSI project will add approximately 8,000 square feet of space to the Springfield-based research laboratory.

Established in 2002 in order to remodel the former building into a modernized research facility, the Springfield laboratory will be expanded from its already existing 17,000 square feet to its location at 3601 Main St. in the city.

The construction scheduled for the PVLSI research laboratory will begin with internal alterations to the building which will, in effect, expand the wet lab, core facilities, as well as offices and conference room spaces.

A joint venture of the Bay State Medical Center and UMass, the PVLSI was established in 2002 with the purpose of furthering biomedical research and economic development.

The overall mission of the PVLSI, according to their website, is to improve human health by developing new approaches to the diagnosis and the treatment of diseases.

The PVLSI brings together the resources of each of its founding institutions, as well as its own researchers, to collaborate with physicians, scientists and engineers.

Altogether, the researchers work to create both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams which will focus on the molecular mechanisms of disease as well as the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

According to Paul Friedmann, executive director of the PVLSI, the project seeks to further the economic development throughout the region but initially met with some obstacles in its early stages due to the organization’s own financial challenges.

“We are very happy to get this project under way,” Friedmann said.

“Of course, financing has been a challenge in the current economy and we are especially grateful for the support of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, Congressman Richard Neal and Baystate Health’s CEO, Mark Tolosky, in securing the necessary funding,” he added.

“In addition to the jobs we anticipate creating directly, our plan calls for this facility to support biomedically-based opportunities that will indirectly lead to more businesses and jobs in Springfield, throughout the western Massachusetts region and beyond.”

According to the PVLSI’s science director and UMass biology professor member, Lawrence Schwartz, the project will also serve to position the University in the competitive field of medical research.

“The much-needed space created by this project will enable us to enhance and expand our research team as well as our microscopy, imaging and research core facilities,” Schwartz said. “This will increase our research capacity, allowing us to compete even more effectively for federal research grant funding and to accelerate our work with industry collaborators.”

Both Friedmann and Schwartz said that they expect the expansion to completed later this year, which, when finished, will hopefully allow them to create 30 new job opportunities in addition to the already 45 currently employed at the facility.

Jennifer Heshion can be reached at [email protected]