Home Education $40 million biomedically-based research complex opens in Pensacola

$40 million biomedically-based research complex opens in Pensacola

IHMC's Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex hosted their ribbon cutting today.

The new $40 million biomedically-based research complex constructed by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) will be more than a striking addition to the Pensacola skyline.

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It will be an accelerant for the pace of discovery that will drive innovations in maximizing the healthspan for everyone from elite military operators and veterans to those with neurodegenerative diseases, musculoskeletal problems, and chronic metabolic conditions.

The Healthspan, Resilience and Performance Research Complex is another step in the evolution of the vision that has been the bedrock of IHMC since its founding by Dr. Ken Ford, the Institute’s Chief Executive Officer.

“Pushing the boundaries of science to maximize the performance and resilience of human beings has long been a foundational tenet at IHMC,” Ford says. “In our healthspan, resilience and performance research thrust, the vision has always been to work from the molecular level to the whole human. This facility brings that to life.”

Dr. Morley Stone, Chief Strategic Partnership Officer, notes that the leading-edge research complex gives IHMC’s interdisciplinary team of researchers the ability to truly realize that vision.

“The healthcare system as it is set up now puts people on a trajectory to decline over decades,” Stone says. “We want to lead the science that drives people to extend the period of a person’s life over which they are high functioning and healthy.”

The unique facility puts Pensacola and Northwest Florida at the center of a human and biological sciences economic ecosystem that did not exist before this $40 million research facility came out of the ground. It also serves as a draw for top research talent to the area from all over the world.

 “The ability to move from whole human physiology and performance to the molecular level in one facility — there’s nothing else like it in the southeast that I can think of,” Stone said.

The Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex will be an economic and intellectual beacon for the entire Northwest Florida region, says Dr. Marcas Bamman, Senior Research Scientist and Director of Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance research at IHMC.

The science conducted here will be an economic engine, drawing in new funding in federal and industry-sponsored research. Partners in the project have included Space Florida and Triumph Gulf Coast, the nonprofit corporation funded by a legal settlement with British Petroleum following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Funding provided by these agencies helped seed and support the complex.

The Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex stands apart among biomedical science hubs due to the collaborative, cross-discipline spirit that has been a hallmark of IHMC since its beginning. Researchers working in the new research complex are literally an arm’s length reach away from experts in AI, cognitive psychology, computational modeling, data visualization, exoskeletons, engineering and more.

“It’s an accelerant for the speed of discovery,” Stone says.

The three-story, 40,000 square foot facility was built by Brasfield & Gorrie and designed by DAG Architects partnered with Atlanta-headquartered Cooper Carry. The complex is literally designed to fuel the pace of discovery. The first floor is built around human participant testing and intervention, featuring rehabilitation facilities, biomedical sampling tools and performance testing laboratories.

“The first floor focuses on clinical and applied science,” Bamman says. “The third floor contains leading-edge wet laboratories for cellular and molecular science, which enable us to extend and better understand the effects we are having on people on the first floor. We now have the unique capacity – leveraging a range of scientists and technology – to deeply study and improve strategies that enhance healthspan, resilience, and performance for all.”

As the biological sciences have become intertwined with information and computer sciences, IHMC is uniquely positioned to accelerate that trend — and excel while doing it, Stone says.

“Every institution that’s doing this work is struggling with how to generate meaning from that information,” Stone says. “Going back to our legacy, being able to tap into artificial intelligence and machine learning capability that was the foundation of IHMC is an invaluable resource for being able to make meaning out of that information that’s generated.”

A regional economic hub, a draw of international experts

The new Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex is not just a magnet for talent. It is a magnet for dollars that come into the community that do more than recirculate around the community.

“In this case, we’re bringing in millions of dollars of new research money into the economy that our researchers use to buy houses, eat at restaurants, and buy cars. That type of impact is hard to match,” Stone says.

While the population at large ultimately will benefit from what IHMC researchers learn about aging, degenerative and chronic metabolic conditions and what interventions might help ameliorate these, military operators are a specific target audience of the research done at IHMC.

“And frankly,” Stone notes, “it’s just part of the moral obligation that we have to our service members to make sure that not only they leave in the best possible shape they can, but the years after they leave are as productive and high functioning as possible. That’s the moral obligation.”

It’s one that thanks to the Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex, IHMC uniquely is positioned to fulfill.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.