Institute hosts Grand Opening for 20 new labs and Live Learning Center

 Cutting edge cancer research in Southern Minnesota continues to expand thanks to the newly completed expansion of The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota. Hundreds gathered on June 1 to celebrate the two-year building project that more than doubles the size of the cancer research center after a transformational expansion tripled the cancer center in 2008. The expansion allows space for another 120 faculty and staff to be added over the next few years and also added a global communications learning center.

“This is the kind of investment that Jay Hormel envisioned when he created the Foundation,” said Gary Ray, chair of The Hormel Foundation. “The Institute is engaged in world-class, cutting-edge research in cancer prevention and treatment that benefits all of us. And, because that work is being done right here in Austin, the Institute helps energize our local and state economies, enhances our reputation as an attractive, diverse destination and brings some of the world’s leading health researchers to our community.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Tim Walz joined leaders from across the community, region, country, and globally from China, South Korea and beyond, who came together to take part in the official expansion grand opening program. A three-day international cancer conference brought 150 cancer research scientists from around the world as part of expansion events.

The Hormel Institute’s expansion was launched in 2012 with $13.5 million awarded in the Minnesota bonding bill. The Austin Port Authority, through State Senator Dan Sparks and State Representative Jeanne Poppe, requested funds for 20 new labs from the State of Minnesota. Supported across the board by most state legislators including State Senators David Senjem and Carla Nelson, The Hormel Foundation matched the $13.5 million bonding grant and gave an additional $8 million in support of recruiting top faculty to fill the new labs and provide new cutting edge technology.  Governor Mark Dayton lauded The Hormel Institute expansion as “one of the best investments the State of Minnesota can make.”

“I want to congratulate The Hormel Institute on the 2016 Expansion,” said Dayton.  “We are very proud of this center and the work that is done in Austin. The expansion provides new jobs and the cutting edge cancer research benefits the people of our state and around the world.”

One of the labs houses the most cutting edge microscope technology used in research today. The Hormel Foundation funded a powerful and flexible high-resolution electron microscope that captures 2 dimensional (2-D) and 3-D images using cryo-electron microscopy (EM). The specialized laboratory was designed to accommodate the new Titan Krios G2 microscope developed in the Netherlands and purchased from FEI (North America NanoPort, Hillsboro, Oregon).

A global distance communications area was added to the expansion on the west side of The Hormel Institute and was designed to enhance Institute scientists’ ability to collaborate worldwide. Named “Ray Live Learning Center” after a major donation given by Gary and Pat Ray, the 250-seat auditorium provides state of the art communications technology and large multipurpose center. The Ray Live Learning Center will be used over the next three days as the “7th China-U.S. Forum on Frontiers of Cancer Research & the 4th Hormel Institute Research Conference” begins. In addition, Gary (chair of The Hormel Foundation) and Pat donated the sculpture produced by Steve Carpenter of Archetype Designs, Minneapolis. The sculpture reflects the anticancer agent silybin and its inhibitory effect on melanoma.  The Hormel Institute named the sculpture “Ray of Hope” in honor of the donation.

“The sculpture is our way of highlighting the unique work of The Hormel Institute, in looking for natural compounds to prevent and treat cancer,” said Pat Ray. “This indeed is a gift of hope that answers to cancer will be found through the dedicated research of Institute scientists.”

In addition to their major gift, the $4.5 million project was funded by donations secured in a capital campaign, including $1.5 million donated by The Hormel Foundation and $1.5 million from the University of Minnesota.

“At the University of Minnesota, we are committed to the fight against cancer, which is one part of our mission to enrich and save lives in Minnesota and around the world,” said University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler. “Our critical and extraordinary partnership with The Hormel Institute helps the university to move that mission forward.”

Another $1.7 million was raised through local donations from individuals and organizations, surpassing the goal by nearly $200,000.

“We are thankful to all of the people and organizations who generously supported this vitally needed gathering space for Institute scientists to further their research,” said Dr. Zigang Dong, Executive Director for The Hormel Institute.

“On behalf of the faculty and staff, we thank our leaders and community for the 2016 expansion. I want to say thank you for this historic milestone and know we remain dedicated to our research – to finding discoveries that will prevent cancer and extend and improve lives worldwide.”