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The Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building and the new Cancer Research Pavilion became one shovel-dig closer to reality at the official groundbreaking ceremony on December 9. The construction marks the first major building in the life sciences since the construction of the Stewart and McIntyre Buildings in the 1960s, and will join these older buildings to form the Life Sciences Complex. "As the construction of Stewart and McIntyre marked a new era at McGill, so does this groundbreaking ceremony mark another milestone," claimed Abraham Fuks, Dean of Medicine.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum noted, "The Bellini Building and the Cancer Research Pavilion will provide a new platform for multidisciplinary research and teaching at the forefront of medicine and science."
Like a number of other speakers at the event, Munroe-Blum singled out professors Michel Tremblay, Paul Lasko and David Thomas, as well as Dean Fuks, Dean of Science Martin Grant and former Dean of Science Alan Shaver, for the vision they had developed and the energy they then directed toward bringing it to fruition.
Most of the applause, however, was saved for Francesco Bellini, whose gift of $10 million kick-started the project. Support from the Quebec government and the Canada Foundation for Innovation also helped ensure that the campus will soon be seeing backhoes and builders on the ground above Dr Penfield Ave.
Bellini founded BioChem Pharma in 1986 and, working with the late Bernard Belleau, a McGill Chemistry professor, and Dr Gervais Dionne, developed the anti-HIV drug 3TC in the late 1980s; the drug remains central to HIV/AIDS treatment. "Doing things alone is very difficult," said Bellini at the ceremony. "I had a fantastic team working with me. This setting is designed to facilitate a rich cross-pollination of ideas, which will lead to new breakthroughs. I believe that it will place McGill in an ideal position to produce the scientists of tomorrow." The facilities will be home to 60 principal investigators and 600 other researchers; 50 percent of the floorspace will be dedicated to laboratories. The next stage - actually constructing the building - is scheduled to be completed in 2008.