November 20, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 38

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Leaders dedicate South Texas Centers, SBC Teleconference Center

Air cannons propelled festive streamers skyward as an oversized plastic tarp, painted with a South Texas skyline, opened to unveil a three-story, 87,000-square-foot white limestone research building. But that was only one of two buildings dedicated on Nov. 1. The two new buildings double the presence of the Health Science Center in the Texas Research Park and promise a new age of research geared toward the cure, and eventual elimination, of diseases that disproportionately affect people in South Texas.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa  (right) speaks with Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman of the board and chief executive officer of SBC Communications Inc., during the dedication of the South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine and the SBC Teleconference Center on Nov. 1 in the Texas Research Park.

The new SBC Teleconference Center (pictured) will enable faculty in the Texas Research Park to confer with peers around the world and share scientific data.

The $19 million South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine (STCBM) is the result of generous and enthusiastic support from community donors, the state of Texas and the National Institutes of Health. The state-of-the-art SBC Teleconference Center, adjacent to the STCBM and made possible by a generous $1.8 million grant from the SBC Foundation, provides a virtual bridge linking researchers in the Texas Research Park to colleagues 19 miles away in the South Texas Medical Center on San Antonio’s Northwest Side as well as worldwide. SBC also has provided $5 million for technology to create a "virtual campus" for Health Science Center researchers and faculty.

The scientists in these laboratories will make today’s diseases as obsolete as smallpox.

—Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa

"We are grateful that former Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr., and San Antonio businessman Sam Barshop led the campaign for our new South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine," said Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president. "The addition of these Health Science Center facilities to the Texas Research Park ushers in a new era of scientific discovery."

The world-class STCBM will house laboratories and offices for scientists studying aging and infectious diseases, as well as interim laboratories and offices of the Children’s Cancer Research Center. The building will have capacity for 200 faculty researchers and students.

"We can picture the outstanding scholars who will be working in these laboratories. Perhaps one of these youn scientists will be a young Marie Curie or even the next Michael DeBakey," said Dr. Cigarroa. He also noted that the latest technology would not only improve but also accelerate future scientific discoveries.

"Scientists, scholars and physicians working in the Research Park will be able to talk face to face with other researchers in Boston, Mexico or along the Pacific Rim," said Dr. Cigarroa. "We owe this marvelous capacity to the SBC Teleconference Center and its innovative technology. I know how important it is to provide our faculty with new state-of-the-art facilities in which to conduct their research."

Dr. Cigarroa added that biomedical research at the park will help "eliminate illnesses, diseases and suffering of so many people in this region and beyond. Because of these new facilities, we celebrate our ability to conduct scientific research at a more effective and sophisticated level than we did before."

"Scientists, scholars and physicians will be able to talk face to face with other researchers in Boston, Mexico or along the Pacific Rim."

—Dr. Cigarroa

Newly emerging and reemerging diseases, such as multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue fever and hepatitis, present a real sense of urgency for biomedical research in this region, said Dr. Cigarroa.

"Disorders such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease have not yet been conquered," he said. "The need for advances in medical science is more pressing than ever. The scientists in these laboratories will make today’s diseases as obsolete as smallpox."

Community leaders donated $12 million for the South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine, expanding upon $6 million in Permanent University Funds approved for the project and $1 million from the National Institutes of Health.

The STCBM is adjacent to the Health Science Center’s U. T. Institute for Biotechnology, a molecular genetics research center that was dedicated in 1990 and is celebrating its 10th anniversary along with the Texas Research Park.

Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman of the board and chief executive officer of SBC Communications Inc., said the state-of-the-art teleconference center will help link scientists around the world as though they were "having a conversation across the table."

"A big reason for the rapid advances (in science) is the ability of researchers to quickly and efficiently share information," Whitacre was quoted as saying in a San Antonio Express-News article on the event.