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MEDICAL CAMPUS ALREADY HELPING TO CURE THE AILING CITY

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus north of downtown is creating spin-off investment in the city, even before construction of its centerpiece life science research complex is complete, mayor Anthony M. Masiello said Wednesday.

He pointed to a recent wave of conversions of downtown buildings into high-end rental property, as well as investments by developers in office space.

"What happened here has been the engine . . . to get others confident and secure that they can invest their own private-sector money," he said at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Developments like the Ellicott Lofts, on Ellicott near Genesee street, are fetching more than $1,000 a month for some apartments, while developers are also eyeing renovation projects on Main Street bordering the medical campus.

The talk was part of an update on the master plan to develop an urban campus full of amenities as the setting for the $150 million life sciences complex. The medical and research institutions behind the campus first announced the plan in 2002.

Extending from Goodell Street to East North Street, and bounded by Main Street and Michigan Avenue, the campus has 8,000 workers in medical care, research and education.

The idea behind the master plan is to create an environment that can help recruit world-class researchers as well as patients. Things like paths, parking and shuttles are envisioned along with top-flight research facilities.

"We've had a good two years -- we have much more to do," said Thomas R. Beecher Jr., chair of the medical campus organization.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is a non-profit group led by member institutions the University at Buffalo, Kaleida Health, Roswell Park, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, the Buffalo Medical Group Foundation, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, and Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center.

The over 400,000-square-foot life science complex under construction at Ellicott and Virginia streets is backed by three institutions. Hauptman Woodward's structural biology research building should be complete in early 2005, while UB's bioinformatics center and Roswell Park's center for genetics and pharmacology are both expected to be ready in the fall of 2005, officials said.

Member institutions gave updates citing increases in research, recruiting, grants and commercial opportunities.

Roswell Park has recruited 130 research and clinical staff as it strengthens its research capacity, said Candace Johnson, senior vice president for translational research. Patent filings are also up, with an average of 10 to 12 a year, she said, a measure of potential new drugs and treatments.

Kaleida Health, operator of Buffalo General Hospital, has stanched multimillion-dollar losses and is focusing on strengthening its heart surgery practice, chief executive William D. McGuire said. Too many patients travel outside the Buffalo area for heart surgery, he said.

UB expanded the scope of its bioinformatics research center in April, increasing staff and making the center a university priority, president John B. Simpson said.

Hauptman-Woodward expects to recruit 40 more people to work in its new research building, chief executive George T. DeTitta said.

City Hall, foundations and other segments of the community have rallied behind the medical campus in a broad-based effort, he said.

"I've never seen anything like this," DeTitta said, "but I've only been here 33 years."

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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