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Agreement set to house Jacobs Institute in Kaleida's new heart-vascular center

An institute formed by Buffalo's Jacobs family will be housed downtown in the new 10-story heart-vascular center after all, ensuring that the University at Buffalo will cash in on a $10 million gift.

Available space in the building, now under construction by Kaleida Health and UB, had become a sticking point, raising uncertainty over whether the heart-vascular center would house the nonprofit Jacobs Institute.

But leaders at UB and the institute recently reached a lease agreement, which will plant the institute on the fifth floor of the heart-vascular center to help recruit talent, turn doctors' ideas into research and commercialize promising innovations.

"Everyone recognized this is too important for the community. We went back to the table. We figured out how to get it done," said Thomas Beecher, chairman of the Jacobs Institute.

In 2008, Jeremy M. Jacobs, chairman of Delaware North Cos., and his wife, Margaret, donated $10 million to UB to supplement salaries and provide incentives to help recruit world-class researchers to the heart-vascular center. It was the single largest donation in the school's history.

But the gift also came with specific conditions, including designating a certain amount of space in the heart-vascular center to operate the Jacobs Institute as an independent entity.

Difficulties arose over how much room to devote to the institute, as UB weighed the space requirements of the nonprofit against the significant use of public funds to construct the building.

In the end, the parties agreed to a 45-year lease for the Jacobs Institute, which will occupy 25,000 square feet, or about half the fifth floor, said Scott D. Nostaja, senior vice president and chief operations officer at UB. The rest of the floor will be used for a planned business incubator, which fits with the intent of the institute.

The Jacobs Institute also was purposely positioned in the middle of the building to mesh the doctors on the bottom floors with the researchers on the top floors, Beecher said.

"I'm sure there were a lot of people who would like to be in that building and everybody can't be," Beecher said. "The university rightly had a problem of how to get a gallon into a quart bottle."

"But the university worked that out," Beecher said, "and came up with a very unique solution. I think it's a very fitting use."

The institute, and the $10 million gift, specifically honor Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs, Jeremy Jacobs' late brother.

The groundbreaking work of the Buffalo neurologist led to the treatment of multiple sclerosis with Avonex, a beta interferon drug developed by Biogen Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

The Jacobs family hopes to use its gift to ensure that doctors in Buffalo with great ideas can develop their innovations here.

"I think everybody is thrilled with them coming into the space," Nostaja said.

"I think there was a misconception that the deal had gone awry. That was never the case," Nostaja added. "There was always a shared understanding to create the best Jacobs Institute and UB partnership that we could, and we worked on that continuously the last several months to make that happen."

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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