Celebrating Spartans: Bio-Engineering the future at MSU

EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Inside a new building on the campus of Michigan State University collaboration is happening between researchers from engineering, science and medicine in an effort to solve some of the world’s biggest health challenges.

The president of Michigan State University, Lou Anna K. Simon, said it’s important to imagine what science will be like in the future.

And she knew one visionary who could lead the way was Dr. Chris Contag.

A professor from Stanford and a pioneer in molecular imaging, he was brought to MSU to share his vision for the Bio-engineering Building.

Dr. Contag tells 6 News that it has exceeded his expectations.

“So I see a place where people are really changing the way we think about the world the way we think about diseases we think about preserve health and I see all the different disciplines
coming together in unique ways intentionally,” explained Dr. Contag. “We package the themes in this building to be integrated. Everything stretches across molecules to man in every every area– whether it’s how cells work together and how we can change the way they work engineering to be different. All of those are integrated throughout the building so the building is integrated horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Everybody working together towards common goals.”

Dr. Contag makes it a priority to think about where science will be in 5 years, by cultivating the minds of the men and women working in the Bio-engineering facility to forge new frontiers in scientific research.

“Imagine taking a group of twenty people and expanding it to an entire building which could at some point in time have three hundred or four hundred people all with that same mindset,” adds Dr. Contag. “What is our unique skill set that we can combine working as a community of scientists that will take us to the cutting edge of research and leapfrog in front of everybody else and a stake in the ground to say here’s where we should be thinking about science today. And then using the team of scientists to get there.”

When MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon first met Dr. Contag she envisioned him designing something that was a magnet for several disciplines to collaborate on cutting edge biomedical research. And now it’s a 130,000 square foot reality with a price tag of $69-million.

“He’s a person who understands and appreciates this nexus of making things in biology and computational work and is doing it in his own work,” says Simon. “Now he’s an inventor. It’s highly collaborative. He’s a good listener to to find ideas and not just a shouter of his own, which you really need in the leader of this kind of work.”

“It’s time to change from just watching what happens to telling cells where to go and what to do,” said Dr. Contag. “So imagine engineering a stem cell such that you can tell it to go to a specific site where there’s damage to the tissue and then reprogramming it to replace the damaged tissue and doing it without, noninvasively, without surgery.”

Dr. Contag calls this “a new era of scientific research at MSU” where a team of scientists, in areas that relate to each other, come together to work toward common goals.

“The whole point of this building is to take it and expand it a hundred fold,” Dr. Contag enthuses. “Take the idea that we can cross disciplines, we can train people that in a different way. We can think broadly about problems that could bring bio-informatics into genetics research and bring different disciplines together. Physics and engineering all together in one place. That’s the whole point of this building, is to say it’s one big experimen tand build a really amazing place for scientific research.”

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