he planned Sept. 26 opening of the Banner M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert could be the impetus for development of a major regional and national life sciences industry, city officials say. The city is also poised to become a major center of stem cell research.
John Lewis was elected mayor of Gilbert, which has a population of about 215,000, in May 2009. He previously lived in Houston for several years and has long been aware of the impact of Houston-based M.D. Anderson and its reputation as a leading cancer center. He says M.D. Anderson's investment in Gilbert, along with the Celebration Stem Cell Centre (CSSC), help give Gilbert a life sciences cluster encompassing more than 2 million sq. ft. (185,800 sq. m.) and will serve as a major draw to the region.
The new center is in collaboration with Phoenix-based Banner Health, one of the country's largest nonprofit hospital systems. The US$107-million facility, located on the campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center is being funded by Banner Health through bonds. Construction began on the facility in December 2009. Banner Gateway Medical Center opened in 2007 and employs about 1,000. The cancer center, which will be an outpatient facility, will be supported by 76 beds within Banner Gateway.
Banner Health also owns or manages 22 acute-care hospitals, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services including family clinics, home care and hospice services, and a nursing registry. The company has facilities in seven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming
"M.D. Anderson is generating a lot of interest," says Lewis, who attended the 2011 BIO International Convention in Washington, D.C. in June. "On the scale of one to 10, it's about 100. With the Celebration Stem Cell Center, it's all coming together in Gilbert."
Lewis says there is plenty of opportunity for collaboration in the life sciences sector with more than 800 science and technology firms in the region. He says Gilbert has about 300 available acres (121 hectares) earmarked for healthcare development.
Workers are now putting the finishing touches on the 133,000-sq.-ft. (12,355-sq.-m.), three-story facility, which will employ about 275. Subsequent phases will add more than 200,000 sq. ft. (18,580 sq. m.) to the campus. Services will include medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, pathology, laboratory, diagnostic imaging, as well as other supportive clinical services.
While the cancer center will provide care for all types of cancers, its primary focuses include:
Pam Nenaber, CEO of Banner M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Banner Gateway Medical Center, says the Banner Gateway campus in Gilbert was selected because of its strategic location, which provides easy access to the Phoenix freeway system and local airports.
M.D. Anderson's Houston hospital was ranked as the nation's top cancer center by U.S. News & World Report. Hospital officials say the Gilbert facility will likely be its second largest center.
The CSCC and its newly launched spinoff, the Translational Research Institute (TRI), plan to develop the next key components to advance cellular technologies and stem cell therapy in the U.S. TRI is a private company formed to develop innovative treatments for cardiovascular disease through breakthrough cellular technologies and medical devices. TRI will fund clinical research projects and establish strategic partnerships with world-leading scientists and principal investigators in stem cell transplant therapies and regenerative medicine.
"Gilbert, Arizona will be a worldwide destination for patient treatment and a center for scientists to be trained from basic science to clinical application for stem cells," said Dr. Nabil Dib, chief scientific officer for TRI and medical director and chief investigator at the Celebration Stem Cell Centre.