UVM Firestone Medical Research Building celebrates grand opening

UVM photo by David Seaver of the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.

by Jennifer Nachbur, UVM Larner College of Medicine It was a typical late fall day in Vermont – a mix of gray skies and sun with a cool wind blowing – but the tone was bright and celebratory at the October 27 grand opening and dedication of the newest addition to the Larner College of Medicine’s campus: the Firestone Medical Research Building. In attendance at the dedication ceremony were donors, leaders from across the College of Medicine, University of Vermont and UVM Health Network, medical alumni, faculty, staff, students and research trainees, and community and business leaders. Also present were representatives of architects Payette Associates and Black River Design and the main contractor for the building, Vermont-based PC Construction.

The event marked the conclusion of a two-year-and-twenty-nine-day journey, which started during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many construction projects across the state had halted.

Despite the stay-at-home order in place in September 2020, biomedical research on the SARS-CoV2 virus at the University of Vermont’s medical school was operating in high gear.

“Those early days of the pandemic taught us many lessons, some of them heartbreaking in nature, and they deeply underscored the value of biomedical research,” said Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., during his welcome remarks at the event. “So even in the depths of the crisis, when we might have been forgiven, and forgiven ourselves, for delaying the plans for the Firestone Building until less tumultuous times, we decided to forge ahead,” Page added.

The seeds of inspiration for the building were planted by its lead donor, Larner alum and retired anesthesiologist Steve Firestone, M.D.’69, who several years ago began exploring where to focus a gift in memory of his mother and his father, Dr. Frederick Firestone. The senior Dr. Firestone had received medical training in Vienna, Austria in the 1930s, made his way to the United States, completed his medical internship, and joined the U.S. Army during the Second World War, where he served in Europe as a battalion surgeon and earned two Silver Star Medals. After the war, he opened a modest medical practice, where his wife, Bobbie, worked alongside him as a nurse, and they served their community for many years.

The new building represents the university’s and college’s commitment to research excellence, student success, patient care, and community service. UVM President Suresh Garimella underscored how advanced research technology housed in the new Firestone Building provides an example of this commitment.

“The work that happens on this campus every day—in every college and school—directly impacts the quality of life for people near and far,” said Garimella. “The Center for Shared Biomedical Resources is a key example of our institution bringing into being a resource for the entire region, beyond just those directly connected to UVM. Researchers at other institutions and in state government will be able to take advantage of the technology at the center.”

Providing an environment for both deliberate investigation and serendipitous innovation were intentional components of the building’s design, and an aspect highly valued by Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., and Mark Nelson, Ph.D., who are co-directors of the Vermont Center on Cardiovascular and Brain Health (VCCBH), which will be located on Firestone’s fourth floor.

“This building will focus on collaboratively advancing research that supports healthy life and builds and sustain vibrant economies and communities,” said Cushman, who referenced the adjacent location of state-of-the-art laboratories and a “collaboratory” for idea sharing in the VCCBH’s space.

Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., professor of neurological sciences, chair of electrical and biomedical engineering, and a UVM B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degree alum, said during her remarks, "I can't think of a better way to amplify our impact here at UVM than training the next generation.”

Symbolically, graduate students Kiera Malone and Dylan Casey, who will be training and working in the Firestone Building, held each end of the ribbon that was cut at the close of the October 27 event to formally open the facility. Malone, a Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences doctoral student, works on cancer-related research with Karen Glass, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology. A type 1 diabetic, Malone understands the importance of biomedical research from the perspective of both a patient and a scientist.

“I really hope that we can make change for everybody, and those, especially, who need it the most,” she said during an interview with local television news station NBC5.

Firestone Medical Research Building Fact Sheet

  1. The Dr. Frederick and Mrs. Bobbie Firestone Medical Research Building is named in honor of the parents of lead donor and Larner College of Medicine alum Steve Firestone, M.D.’69.
  2. Construction started September 29, 2020 and a Certificate of Occupancy was issued on October 21, 2022. The building is currently about 10% occupied, and the occupancy process is expected to take approximately four-months to complete.
  3. The building project consisted of a 62,250 gross square foot, four-story addition to the Health Science Research Facility (HSRF) designed to provide flexible research lab space, lab support, write-up and office spaces, core spaces for circulation, conference rooms, and kitchenettes.
  4. The Firestone Medical Research Building will house multidisciplinary research teams working in the areas of cardiovascular health, brain health, cancer, and lung disease.
  5. The building has the capacity to house approximately 250 faculty, students, and staff. It includes 42 principal investigator offices and approximately 150 wet bench stations (laboratories).
  6. The first floor of the building houses the UVM Center for Biomedical Shared Resources (CBSR). CBSR core facilities include the Vermont Integrative Genomics Resource; Vermont Biomedical Research Network’s Flow Cytometry and Cell Sorting Facility; Microscopy Imaging Center; and the Mass Spectrometry Facility, which will be available for UVM and Vermont researchers’ use. The CBSR is supported by a $5.473 million National Institutes of Health grant.
  7. Exterior features of the building site include the Anton Green, located on the north side of the building, which was dedicated by alum Ray Anton, M.D.’70 in honor of his late father – also a Larner medical alum – Harry Anton, M.D.’40; and the steel “FIVE” and “EIGHT” sculptures installed on the Anton Green. Created by local artist Kate Pond, these two sculptures were donated to the Larner College of Medicine by Cathleen Gleeson, Ph.D., former Larner associate dean for admissions, and David Maughan, Ph.D., UVM professor emeritus of molecular physiology & biophysics.
  8. The building’s architects are Payette and Black River Design, from Boston, Mass., and Montpelier, Vt., respectively. The construction team is PC Construction of South Burlington, Vt. Both architecture firms, the general contractor, and the masonry contractor also designed and built, respectively, the Larner College of Medicine’s HSRF. Many members of the general contractor’s staff who served on-site during construction are UVM graduates.
  9. Vermonters performed more than 90 percent of the construction labor.
  10. Over 600 square feet of granite was supplied locally and was used for accents in retaining walls that were constructed on the south and west side of the building.
  11. The laboratory exhaust air flows through an energy recovery air handler that transfers approximately 70% of heat to the incoming air before exiting the building.
  12. 60 cubic yards of existing concrete was removed and recycled locally during demolition.
  13. 2,800 cubic yards of locally manufactured concrete foundations and slabs were placed.
  14. 400 tons of structural steel with 88% recycled steel content were erected.
  15. More than 75% of construction and demolition waste was diverted from the landfill.
  16. The building is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and upon project completion, is projected to receive confirmation of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for new construction.
  17. The building’s total cost is estimated at $45 million.
  18. To date, $11.5 million has been raised toward the Firestone Medical Research Building fund’s $20 million-dollar fundraising goal.

10.27.2022. Burlington. UVM.