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Cancer on the Move

GW Cancer Center Moves into New Collaborative Space Atop the Science and Engineering Building

By Katherine Dvorak

The days of basic scientists laboring in virtual isolation in their labs in search of the next discovery are well in the past. In today’s research world, collaboration is key. That’s never been more evident than in the sparkling new facilities on the eighth floor of George Washington University’s (GW) newly built Science and Engineering Hall (SEH). The SEH reflects the importance of having a space dedicated to collaboration across disciplines.

GW Cancer Center Leadership

The facility, which spans 500,000 square feet, is the largest academic building dedicated to the fields of science and engineering in Washington, D.C., and the very top floor is now home to a growing number of cancer research labs run by GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

Having the space allows SMHS to broaden its research efforts, especially when it comes to cancer and translational science, says Edward Seto, Ph.D., associate center director for basic sciences at the GW Cancer Center (GWCC) and professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at SMHS.

Two areas of emphasis in the labs are cancer epigenetics and immunology and immunotherapy, says Seto, who provides leadership for the development, implementation, and evaluation of basic science–related programs and initiatives. He says scientists will also dedicate research to microbial oncology, work that will be done with the help of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine.

In addition, the space will better foster collaboration between students and researchers in both SMHS and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Seto says.

GW Cancer Center Lab

“A lot of non-scientists think research is [performed by] someone who’s doing experiments alone in the basement or garage,” he says. “But that’s not how science is done. Scientists have to work together, where they can bounce ideas off each other and work in groups to do things beyond each [person’s] expertise.”

Every inch of the new floor, Seto goes on to say, “has been designed to promote collaboration and the exchange of ideas. With everyone working together, good ideas are bound to come out of it.”

Currently, seven SMHS labs occupy the eighth floor. When the floor is completely filled, Seto expects to have between 12 and 15 labs in the space.

The floor also features 19 offices, 60 workstations, and common and meeting areas. It is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment that will help researchers carry out their molecular biology, biochemistry, and cell biology work. In addition, the floor will house a new facility in which to perform patient-derived xenograft model studies, a preclinical platform that will help predict the effectiveness of novel chemotherapeutics for cancer patients.

GW Cancer Center Lab

Seto says the building and the eighth floor show GW’s commitment to advancing both science and engineering, a strategic goal of the institution.

At The Core

Within the 500,000 square feet of the new Science and Engineering Hall (SEH), researchers and students from the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) are hard at work not only on the eighth floor, but also in other areas of the building, including a specialized Nanofabrication and Imaging Center (NIC), operated by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The NIC is one of the most pristine areas on campus. It houses a class 100 cleanroom equipped with a full spectrum of nanotechnology equipment that will be used to create devices that are tens of nanometers in size in an environment free from contaminants.

GW Cancer Center Lab

The neighboring microimaging suite is filled with modern microscopy instrumentation, allowing visualization of atomic structures, integrated microcircuits, neuronal circuits, and more. The advanced tools and technologies will allow researchers to study samples in ultra-fine detail and allow them to create large 3-D reconstructions of specimens.

For Anastas Popratiloff, M.D., Ph.D., adjunct associate professor of anatomy and regenerative biology at SMHS, combining all of GW’s microscopy resources under one roof is a great approach.

“I believe in technology. I believe technology can change perceptions,” he says. “This is the kind of thing that’s going to move us forward.”

The new labs and technologies allow for infrastructure that will expand the work and research GW does, he says. In addition, it encourages sharing of the equipment between students and faculty in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and SMHS.

“I think collaboration now is becoming more and more important,” Popratiloff says.