A new home for human health innovation.

The new A. James Clark Hall at the University of Maryland, College Park, will spur the development of transformative new engineering and biomedical technologies that advance human health innovation. When it opens in 2017, the 184,000-square-foot building will serve as a central hub for new partnerships and collaborations for organizations throughout the Maryland and Washington, D.C. region. The new building will facilitate world-class research and educational programs, offering state-of-the-art laboratories, student project space, and a new home for the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices, further expanding the capabilities and impact of the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

A Growing Field Aimed at Saving Lives

A. James Clark Hall will support significant research advancements and biomedical innovations that are already underway in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. Since its inauguration in 2006, the Fischell Department’s undergraduate student enrollment has more than doubled in size to help make it the university’s fastest-growing department. About 85 percent of the students enrolled in the university’s bioengineering graduate program come from the United States, with 48 percent female; both of those numbers significantly outpace graduate programs nationally.

The burgeoning field stems from the meeting of two scientific forces: groundbreaking advances in technological capabilities and, on a more fundamental level, humanity’s desire to make a difference.

“Everyone is inspired by solutions to complex problems,” said Darryll Pines, Farvardin Professor and Dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “And there's not a single person who has not been affected by cancer or some other disease impacting their family.”

State of the Art Facilities

Clark Hall, which will be located adjacent to the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, will accommodate the Clark School’s rapidly growing programs, reducing class space deficiency by 20 percent, while bringing together the many disciplines involved with human health innovation under one roof, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration and growth, from electrical and mechanical engineering to biology and information technology. Some 7,332 square feet of classroom space and 11,402 square feet of class lab space will support instructional capabilities.

To help spur an organic flow of ideas between many disciplines, the new building will introduce flex classrooms and two stories of flexible laboratories to the campus, including wet and dry spaces as well as a vivarium, and will be designed to engage the public with an atrium that greets everyone who enters the building. That means anyone from within the campus or greater community will be welcome to convene at Clark Hall and participate in a culture of innovation.

Optical laser and imaging laboratories will feature state-of-the-art technology in digital fabrication, rapid prototyping, 3-D printing, optics, and bioinformatics. In the imaging suite, students and faculty will have the ability to examine molecular resolution of pathogens, whether in the GI tract or bloodstream, that show how a nano-carrier delivers a drug to a specific tumor site. Laser devices and magnetic resonance imagers will allow a close examination of cross-sections of the body and brain.

A New Hub for the Maryland and Federal Region

Within an hour’s-drive from College Park are many of the nation’s top bioscience research forces, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Clark Hall capitalizes on that geographic advantage, allowing networking and collaboration opportunities not only for all University of Maryland faculty, staff, and students but also for professionals from around the region.

“With our presence here in the D.C.-Baltimore corridor, we may have the largest biomedical research capacity in the world, and when you take advantage of this special location, you can do great things,” Bentley said. “Clark Hall is being built basically from the bottom up to be a hub of activity—to bring people from elsewhere in the Clark School of Engineering, the University of Maryland, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, from companies nearby, from the FDA to NIH, all with the idea of inspiring new technologies to improve human health.”

That means students putting their research minds together with policymakers, venture capitalists, and regulatory agents to measure and manipulate cells, tissues, integrated systems, and devices, along the way developing technologies to save lives. “Our location allows us to develop relationships with national labs, gaining exposure that wouldn’t happen in other parts of the country,” said Ian White, Associate Professor of Bioengineering.

Economic Impact

The economic landscape sets the stage for health issues in today’s society. With the nation in critical need of jobs, the biotech industry is poised to help. High-paying, sustainable jobs in this sector pack an economic punch. A recent Battelle/BIO study found that for every biotech job created in Maryland, nearly three more emerged to support it. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the greatest growth of any job category will occur in biomedical engineering through 2020.

The new Clark Hall will incubate the next generations of bioengineers whose contributions and innovations will propel Maryland’s economy for decades to come. The state’s bioscience and bioengineering industry is one that Maryland has invested heavily in growing in recent years. A new bioengineering headquarters in College Park will push the state towards national leadership in technology commercialization and the creation of technology jobs in this sector. In turn, Clark Hall and the burgeoning biotech industry will help keep Maryland’s smartest students in the state by leveling the playing field with other top-tier universities across the country.

Research with Results

To date, Clark School research innovations carry profound implications and touch virtually every aspect of healthcare. With a new facility to support these programs, the day may come when you owe your life, or the life of a loved one, to a biomedical innovation developed at A. James Clark Hall.

Research areas that will be advanced through the transformational facilities provided by Clark Hall include:

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • New Cancer Vaccines
  • Biomedical Device Innovations
  • Sensors and Diagnostics
  • Human Factors Research
  • Surgical Robotics
  • Bioimaging

An Incubator for Innovation

At the heart of research collaborations within the Fischell Department of Bioengineering beats a spirit of entrepreneurship. The Clark School’s record for pushing new technology to market can be credited in part to the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), which has created 100-plus companies generating more than 5,000 jobs over the past two decades.

Mtech’s Venture Accelerator Program will help launch startups following in the footsteps of multibillion-dollar biosciences companies such as Digene Corporation and Martek Biosciences, both incubated in Mtech’s Technology Advancement Program.

“It’s critical that applied work not only exist in the lab, but also that it gets out into the commercial marketplace,” said Professor John Fisher.

A key feature of the new building will be the Robert E. Fischell Institute of Biomedical Devices. Devices and technologies developed here will be translated into clinical environments around the world, according to Bentley, starting with hospitals at the University of Maryland Baltimore, Georgetown University, and Children’s National Medical Center.

“Clark Hall will allow us to make connections and do creative things that could extend or enhance human life, and have a positive impact on millions of lives,” said Pines.

As Bentley sums it up: “Where you have great innovations, you'll have great solutions. And those solutions can come from right here in College Park.”