Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other Chicago notables joined Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and more than 200 members of the Northwestern community today in a groundbreaking ceremony for a biomedical research center that soon will make its mark on the city’s history and skyline.
The mayor was effusive about what the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center will mean for Chicago, and, on behalf of the city, he gave thanks to the benefactors for whom the center was named.
“We are a city on the move and a city growing,” Emanuel said. “I cannot think of something that is more important for the city of Chicago than becoming the premier health care and research center of the country.”
The new research center, he said, “cements Chicago’s leadership in some of the most promising research that will be going on.” It puts “Chicago in a premier place in the most promising fields of biomedical research and health care.” The city, he said, will be dependent on the center not only as an economic engine for Chicago, but also for “its cures of disease that we don’t even know of today.”
Thank you, the mayor said, “on behalf of all of us who will one day rely on what comes out of this research center… the devices and the cures that you will think about ahead of time.”
On behalf of Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Eric G. Neilson, M.D., vice president for medical affairs and the Lewis Landsberg Dean of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, gave special thanks to the dignitaries sitting on stage and in the audience who made the day possible, especially to Louis A. Simpson and Kimberley K. Querrey, for whom the new biomedical center was named.
“Your naming gift is the engine that has enabled construction of this new building and everything that will happen inside of it,” Neilson said to Simpson and Querrey, whose passion for advancing research that saves lives was reflected in the couple’s remarks.
In a tent resplendent with Northwestern pride, on the site that soon will give rise to Northwestern Medicine’s flagship research facility, the speakers noted that the beauty of the new state-of-the-art building, designed by the internationally acclaimed firm of Perkins + Will, will be more than matched by its extraordinary functionality.
“I’m especially excited about how this new building is bringing together scientists from Feinberg, the McCormick School of Engineering, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and, of course, from Lurie Children’s to form new collaborations that can impact health care in ways that have never been possible before,” President Schapiro said.
The building’s curved glass exterior and flexible floor plans for laboratories will foster a dynamic, collegial environment that will draw research faculty and students from across Northwestern’s Evanston and Chicago campuses and affiliated medical institutions.
“This is a landmark moment in the history of Northwestern, and one that will impact health for generations to come here in Chicago and around the country,” Dean Neilson said. “Today we build on the legacy -- we have 156 years of innovation and discovery -- and open a whole new chapter in the history of Northwestern.
“This new building will serve as a catalyst for research on this extraordinary campus and for our expanding Northwestern Medicine health system,” Neilson said. “It will draw the most talented Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows to Chicago and will provide new research opportunities for medical students, residents and fellows.”
The building will be connected floor-by-floor to the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center and be nearby Northwestern Medicine affiliates, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).
“Our academic medical center in Streeterville is well positioned to move boldly into the future,” President Schapiro said. “Just over the past five years Northwestern Medicine has merged physician groups and opened a fabulous new outpatient care pavilion. Lurie Children’s opened a beautiful new hospital, and now RIC is well into construction on a new unbelievably beautiful rehabilitation hospital. These accomplishments serve to strengthen the work Northwestern does and the impact we all have together on the world.”
President Schapiro opened his remarks by giving special thanks to Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Mayor Emanuel for their support in bringing the vision for the building to fruition. He especially thanked “Lou Simpson and Kimberly Querrey “for their inspirational generosity and commitment” before introducing each of them. The couple received sustained applause and a standing ovation.
“It was fortunate to join with Northwestern, because both Kimberly and my passion is in medical research and, particularly, research that can solve many of the major issues and diseases in the world,” Simpson said. “So bringing the biomedical research building to Chicago will do many things. One, it should be a beautiful addition to the skyline," he said, complimenting Perkin + Will for the design of the building.
“The important thing is that it really will enhance Feinberg’s vision of being a leading edge, elite, medical research complex," Simpson said. “And, I think over the years, it was mentioned, the expectation is that 200 medical researchers will be added in the next several years — to hopefully work on many discoveries.”
Querrey said the couple’s decision to “give a gift to Northwestern that would make a huge difference” was greatly inspired by a visit to the lab of Samuel I. Stupp, who has led the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (SQI) since its founding. SQI is conducting some of the world’s most innovative, interdisciplinary research in applying nanotechnology to regenerative medicine.
Querrey brought her niece and nephew to the lab and “was very impressed that Sam was using an interdisciplinary approach to solve complex problems,” she said. “But the more interesting part to me is that he was able to explain what he was doing to inspire passion in children. And that is a unique gift that I think a lot of people probably do not possess.”
That inspired the couple to continue thinking about what they wanted to do philanthropically.
“So we’re pleased that our gift will make Northwestern one of the premier biomedical research institutions in the world, that it will allow the recruitment of the best scientists who will expand the intellectual diversity of the city and the nation," Querrey said. “And it will allow the condition of the human life to continue.”
Construction of the new facility will create 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 high-paying. full-time jobs, attract top researchers and have an economic impact of nearly $4 billion over the decade after the construction of the building.
The Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, in the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, will occupy four of the building’s floors.
“Our partnership with Northwestern University and the Feinberg School of Medicine is an essential critical element of us working together to improve the health and well being of the children not only in Chicago, but across the region and indeed, the world,” said Patrick Magoon, president and CEO of Lurie Children’s.
“Together we are going to be focusing on very important areas of the population that we share –- genetics, heart disease, cancer and neurology, just to name a few,” he said. “And with today’s groundbreaking, we’re closer to achieving that objective.”
Sen. Kirk, who described himself as the number one salesman for Illinois, talked about Illinois being a hotbed of innovation in the 21st century.
“There is no doubt that the key to the 21st-century economy is biomedical research. I want to go on the senate floor one day and say I represent the state where they cured cancer at this institution,” he said, receiving immediate applause.
During the celebration, more than a dozen dignitaries, donning hard hats and picking up shovels, joined Dean Neilson in the ceremonial groundbreaking, lining up in front of a box filled with dirt placed in front of the stage for a photo op. They included President Schapiro; Mayor Emanuel; Simpson; Querrey; Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer; Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly; Sen. Mark Kirk; Northwestern Board of Trustees members Bill Osborn, Howard Trienens, Gordon Segal and David Weinberg; Magoon; Bridget Lesniak, managing principal of Perkins + Will; Carol Bernick, chair of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare; Peter Bensinger, Jr., chairman of the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute board of directors; and Dr. James Adams, chair of emergency medicine at Northwestern Medicine.