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University of Basel

New Biomedicine Building: A Further Addition to Basel’s Life Sciences Campus

Architectural model of the planned new building for the Department of Biomedicine.
An architectural model of the planned new building for the Department of Biomedicine is currently on display in the Kollegienhaus. (Photo: University of Basel, Florian Moritz)

The University of Basel is expanding its Schällemätteli campus with a new research building for its Department of Biomedicine. A sole contractor has been selected, bringing the project one step closer to the start of construction. To finance the new building, the governments of the two Basel cantons have asked their parliaments to increase the credit guarantee.

16 November 2022

Architectural model of the planned new building for the Department of Biomedicine.
An architectural model of the planned new building for the Department of Biomedicine is currently on display in the Kollegienhaus. (Photo: University of Basel, Florian Moritz)

If you take a walk around the Schällemätteli Life Sciences Campus at the moment, you will see that the demolition of the old Biozentrum is well under way. Once the demolition is complete, the Canton of Basel-Stadt will pass the responsibility for the construction site on to the university. This is likely to take place in the first quarter of 2023. The university will then start preparations for the construction of the new building by removing the basement floors and completing the excavation work.

A new building for medical laboratory research on Klingelbergstrasse is scheduled for completion by 2031. The Department of Biomedicine (DBM) currently has about 70 research groups, spread across five sites. The new building will bring them together under one roof. Located in close proximity to the university hospitals, the Biozentrum and ETH Zurich’s Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, it will facilitate collaboration in basic and clinical research and simplify the shared use of central technical facilities.

The building will provide space for 900 staff and 200 students across more than 35,000 square meters of floor space. With its modern research infrastructure, the new addition will also strengthen Basel's international competitiveness by making it an even more attractive and productive hub of research and science.

“The new building will increase the visibility of our excellent biomedical research and strengthen our identity as a department,” says Professor Ivan Martin, head of the DBM. “In addition, the integration of our diverse disciplines and backgrounds at one location will enrich our working environment, enable the emergence of scientific synergies and foster the development of innovative therapeutic approaches.”

Cost certainty thanks to a new implementation model

The construction project was awarded to the Swiss building company Implenia as sole contractor following a public call for tenders in September. Implenia has guaranteed the University of Basel, the owner of the building project, to deliver a turnkey building solution at a binding price. The aim of this implementation model is to ensure that the project does not run over budget and schedule. The project organization has been optimized for better governance, and its strategic project management has been streamlined.

There is a lot left to do before construction can commence, however. “We are currently in an optimization phase aimed primarily at team-building and comparing a range of building variations,” explains Nicolai Balkow, project manager on the university side. The researchers and staff of the DBM who will be working in the new building are also closely involved in the project. “Within the scope of the planning process, we are carrying out 3D virtual-reality workshops with the future users of the building. This allows us to analyze the processes that will take place in the laboratories and animal facilities and determine their requirements.” These insights directly inform all future planning.

“So far, I have observed transparent communication and continuous, constructive dialog between planners and users. This forms the best basis for creating an efficient infrastructure that meets the needs of researchers and thus promotes their productivity,” says DBM Director Ivan Martin.

The University of Basel is securing the investment needed for the new building on the financial market. Collateral security from the two supporting cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft will enable the university to obtain the credit it needs on favorable terms. To this end, the two cantonal parliaments already granted a guarantee of CHF 212 million back in 2014.

A longer construction period and higher funding requirements

Following the conclusion of the tender process, the university now has a realistic cost estimate and a binding quote. These have shown that the sum proposed in 2013 on the basis of a rough estimate will not be sufficient for the construction of the building and must be increased by CHF 153 million.

In 2013, only one comparative project was used as a reference for the rough cost estimate of the new DBM building: the new Biozentrum building planned at that time. In retrospect, it can be seen that both the assumptions for the construction costs and the assumptions for the implementation period of the new Biozentrum building were set too low at the time.

Furthermore, risks and provisions that were not yet included in the rough cost estimate in 2013, such as inflation, were taken into account for the cost calculation now available. In combination with the binding offer from the total contractor, the cost and schedule certainty for the construction of the new DBM building is now much higher. Before construction work begins, it is now evident that an increase in the loan guarantee is necessary to finance the new building.

This is why the governments of the two supporting cantons have each decided to request an equal increase of the credit guarantee to CHF 365 million from their respective parliaments. The works agreement with the sole contractor is subject to the condition that both supporting cantons approve the increase.

According to present planning, the new building will be completed and in operation by 2031. To see what the new building will look like in its finished state, visit the foyer of the Kollegienhaus at Petersplatz, where a model of the project is currently on display.

Linking basic research with the requirements of clinical application

The research carried out at the Department of Biomedicine DBM aims to develop a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms and, on this basis, to devise new therapeutic approaches. The unification of basic researchers and clinically-medically oriented researchers under one roof, the interaction between multiple disciplines, and state-of-the-art technical facilities form the important pillars of this translational research.

Research into molecular and cellular mechanisms in neurobiology, oncology, immunology and regenerative medicine has gained the DBM considerable renown nationally and internationally. These insights into various fields of biomedicine have informed a wide range of new therapeutic concepts, such as in the treatment of solid tumors, blood cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases and tissue regeneration in the musculoskeletal system.

The DBM was founded by the University of Basel, the University Hospital Basel and the University Children’s Hospital Basel in 2000.

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