Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
August 14, 1998


The State of Georgia has approved Emory University's purchase of the 42-acre Georgia Mental Health Institute (GMHI) facility located on Briarcliff Road within a mile of the Emory campus. Closing is expected later this month.

"The sale of the property to Emory University will generate benefits for the University, the State, and the community," says Emory President William M. Chace. "With this acquisition, Emory will have an opportunity to continue our long history at the facility, and to do so in a way that will enable Atlanta and Georgia to develop new strengths."

One of the first things Emory will do, says President Chace, is to create a master plan to address appropriate uses for the area and to assure that it meets the same aesthetic standards as the main Emory campus and is sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood.

Emory co-developed the facility with the State more than 30 years ago and has administered programs on the property since then. The University intends to use the property for a variety of academic, educational, research, scientific activities which could include research, teaching, community educational programs, development and provision of health services to various special populations within the community, and other programs in keeping with the State's original commitment that the property be used for services to benefit Georgians and Emory's education, research and service mission. Although final decisions have not yet been made about which programs these would be, Emory says it is likely that some of the long-standing Emory clinical and research projects housed at the facility for many years are likely to continue.

One of the keystones of Emory's planning, and an aspect of special interest to the state, is the establishment of a multidisciplinary biotechnology development center where new and promising early-stage medical and related technologies can be "incubated" and nurtured with targeted public and private sector support to develop clinically-useful therapeutics, and diagnostics. Once fully developed, the start-up technologies will leave the center and new fledgling technologies will take their place.

When these new technologies are ready for the marketplace, they are expected to create thousands of new high tech, manufacturing and construction jobs in Georgia with widespread economic impact and millions of dollars in increased local and state tax revenues.

The incubator concept draws on the success of the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech, and the biotechnology development center concept was developed in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, already a strong partner with Emory's own research efforts. The concept has the strong support of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a nonprofit, public-private partnership of research universities, business, and state government aiming to grow and develop the technology industry in Georgia through key investments in the universities. It also has support from Georgia's Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

"We think that this is an important expansion of the Emory/Georgia Tech collaboration," said Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough. "This is something that will substantially enhance the growing biotech movement in Atlanta. It will provide another piece to the foundation that will allow Atlanta to become one of the nation's premier biotechnology centers. The critical components for biotechnology success are research and space. This center, with the business incubator component, helps to satisfy both needs. We're very glad," said Dr. Clough, "to play a role with our Emory colleagues in this effort."

"We want the new center to be a model for the nation of what can happen when private and public institutions work hand in hand with government and business communities," says Michael M. E. Johns, MD, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and Director of Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center. "Education, government, business, and, especially, patients in Georgia and everywhere, will benefit from the center's efforts to advance university-based medical discoveries."

"There are numerous advantages to establishing a successful biotechnology development center," adds Dennis Liotta, Ph.D., Emory Vice President for Research. "These include creating strong bridges between our universities and local industry, improving the success rate of new biotechnology ventures and fully capitalizing on the scientific and business resources that already exist at Emory, Georgia Tech and Georgia's other research universities. The center will provide us with a unique opportunity to fulfill the promise of research for public benefit, enhance the local economy and provide new revenue sources for university-based research."

William Todd, President of the Georgia Research Alliance, says that "The Atlanta economy is gradually acquiring all of the pieces of infrastructure needed to grow and sustain a robust biotechnology industry. We now have the venture capital and laboratory space to complement the rapid build-up over the last few years of the intellectual capacity that drives this industry."

The concept of the biotechnology development center also takes full advantage of Georgia's extraordinary biomedical resources, beginning with Emory and Georgia Tech, two of the fastest growing research institutions in the nation, with laboratories and scientists already producing technologies that are moving from the laboratory into production and then patient care. Emory also will work closely with Georgia's other universities and medical centers, and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, the National Arthritis Foundation and other organizations.

Emory paid $2.9 million for the property subject to three very specific terms. First, it accepted the property in its present state of disrepair, estimated by Emory and the State of Georgia to require between $24-$28 million to fix. Second, Emory agreed to establish, in conjunction with the Georgia Institute of Technology, a multidisciplinary biotechnology development center expected to create thousands of new high tech, manufacturing and construction jobs in Georgia with widespread economic impact and millions of dollars in increased local and state tax revenues. Third, Emory agreed that it can never resell the property without specific approval of the state.

The State Financing and Investment Commission approved the sale Tuesday, July 7, after the State Properties Commission had unanimously approved the sale on June 30.

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