California Pacific Currents 2005
A Move towards Reunion: The New Laboratory Space at Brannan Street
Medical research at California Pacific Medical Center goes all the way back to the time when it served as the teaching hospital of the Stanford University School of Medicine. That relationship ended in the 1950s when Stanford built a new hospital in Palo Alto. Many of the Stanford researchers remained in San Francisco, however, to establish the Medical Research Institute (MRI), which operated as an independent research institute until 1993.
In the course of its 40-year history, the MRI gradually became fragmented, with the stronger of the specialized sub-institutes leaving to become independent research facilities. Leadership was lacking, with no one responsible for the overall mission. But this trend began to turn around in 1991, when David Fielder became Executive Director. Fielder was charged with stabilizing administrative and financial operations, reinvigorating the research program, and integrating the MRI with California Pacific Medical Center.
A Unified Vision
In 1993, the MRI merged with California Pacific, and Fielder became Vice President Research. He was joined in his efforts to strengthen the institution in 2000, when Warren Browner, MD, MPH, was recruited to be California Pacific's first Vice President Academic Affairs and the Research Institute's first Scientific Director. "We don't think in terms of sub-institutes anymore," says fielder. "We have programs within the Research Institute-cancer research, neurosciences, gene therapy, complementary medicine, and so forth-and they're working together now, which didn't happen 10 or 15 years ago." Fielder and Browner have also steered the Research Institute toward further integration with the hospital's mission.
The requirements of modern biomedical research, however, required immediate improvements in California Pacific's research facilities, which were located in the Stern and Gerbode buildings on Clay and Webster Streets, adjacent to the hospital. "The buildings were between 50 and 75 years old and lacked adequate infrastructure," Fielder recalls, "but, perhaps even more importantly. isolation was a big problem. Scientists were separated into small labs in different buildings. The situation inhibited communication and collaboration."
The Brannan Street Facilities
Finding temporary space for a medical research facility in San Francisco was no small challenge, but serendipity came into play when a building owner phoned Fielder to find out if he knew of anyone who needed to lease 30,000 square feet of lab space. This, plus a newly upgraded infrastructure including back-up power generation and other redundant systems-legacies from a biotech company that went bust-meant that many of the Research Institute's scientists and administrators could move to the Brannan Street facility without incurring large cost for establishing laboratories from undeveloped space.
Located in the fast-growing South of Market area, the Brannan laboratories are built next to San Francisco's original shoreline. The structure is nearly a hundred years old, but as its owner Paul Stein points out, "It has been retrofitted above and beyond seismic code requirements." He also takes pride in the aesthetics of the renovation, which brought natural light into the interior via a new atrium, while retaining the historical charm of raw brick interior walls and massive wood posts.
The move to the Brannan facility, with its broad, open lab space, has gone a long way toward achieving a cohesive research program. “One of the great advantages," says Associate Scientist Eric Beattie, PhD, “is the brand new state-of-the-art facilities. All the PIs (principal investigators) share a unified laboratory space and this facilitates technical and scientific collaboration. It's an excellent facility that's close to good public transportation and the growing technical and academic community of the area."
Garret Yount, PhD, echoes the sentiment in favor of the layout of the new laboratory space. “The greatest advantage over the old facilities," says Yount, "is that we have enough space to have dedicated rooms for special technologies that require careful environmental control, such as time-lapse microscopy." He also appreciates the airy, well-lit facilities, with details like the automatic glass doors to the cell culture rooms.
Continuity Amid Change
David Fielder, former Vice President Research at California Pacific Medical Center has taken early retirement. David brought an impressive medley of knowledge and skills to his work here and accomplished much in his efforts to develop the Research Institute.
Replacing Fielder is Lynne Day, a long-time California Pacific employee who has successfully "worked both sides of the street," holding positions in the Research Institute as well as the Medical Center. Day started her career in cardiac surgery, where she became manager of the department. At the same time. she assisted the founder of the Heart Research Institute, Frank Gerbode, MD, his colleague Don Hill, MD, and others as they made advances in the laboratory and at the bedside.
Over the last five years, Day has been the Administrative Director for Clinical Research. In this position, she has worked with many of the Medical Center's clinical investigators to build the infrastructure necessary to support a centralized clinical research office. According to Robert Gish, MD, one of California Pacific's most productive clinical researchers, "Lynne has shown an incredible commitment to California Pacific and its research efforts."
As evidence of this commitment, the clinical research program, at the five-year mark, has a staff of nearly 40 research coordinators and regulatory personnel assisting investigators with over 300 active clinical studies in many medical subspecialties.
As she takes over the reins at Fielder's retirement, Lynne Day will utilize her significant administrative skills in the ongoing development and management of the Institute's many research programs.