A group of prominent University of Pennsylvania scientists and engineers is moving into 115,000 square feet of new lab space in the 13-story One uCity Square building in West Philadelphia, consolidating research on messenger RNA, nanoparticles, and other cutting-edge biomedical technology.
More than 50 scientists and staff will be spread out over four floors, representing the largest lease in the 400,000-square-foot building developed by Wexford Science & Technology, Penn announced Thursday.
Among the big names is Drew Weissman, whose work on messenger RNA led to its use in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19. In the new building, he will oversee Penn’s Institute for RNA Innovation, which is developing the mRNA technology for other medical uses beyond vaccines. Until now, the institute was spread out over four locations on the university’s campus.
“Everything will be in one place,” he said. “We’re still in the process of emptying boxes.”
Weissman and other Penn colleagues planned to attend a ribbon-cutting for the $300 million building Thursday afternoon, along with Gov. Josh Shapiro and Mayor Jim Kenney.
The Penn physician said one of his non-vaccine projects involves marrying the mRNA platform with another cutting-edge technology that was developed at Penn — the cancer treatment nicknamed CAR-T. Weissman is working on that project with Penn physician Carl June, the co-winner of a $3 million Breakthrough Prize that also was announced Thursday.
Along with Weissman, other RNA institute members moving to the new building include infectious disease specialist Harvey Friedman, who researches vaccines, and Vladimir Muzykantov, who is studying how nanoparticles can be used to deliver mRNA and other drugs into the body.
Weissman said a prime attraction of being in the new building is the chance to do interdisciplinary research with Penn engineers who will be housed alongside him.
All are members of Penn’s Center for Precision Engineering for Health, directed by bioengineering professor Dan Hammer. The center is developing next-generation tools for diagnosing disease, drug delivery, tissue engineering, and gene editing.
Engineers joining Hammer in the new space include Noor Momin, Sherry Gao, and Michael J. Mitchell.
Researchers and administrative staff from the two research institutes are scheduled to move in through the rest of this year and next.
Other tenants of the 13-story building, located at 37th and Cuthbert Streets, include Century Therapeutics, Integral Molecular, Exponent, and Charles River Laboratories.