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Purdue set to start building life sciences park

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Purdue University officials expect construction to start this summer on two academic buildings in a $79 million project for its newly designated Life and Health Sciences Park.

The $38 million Lyles-Porter Hall will house health programs, including Purdue's speech and hearing sciences department and the West Lafayette programs of Indiana University's School of Medicine. Purdue also is planning a $25 million Drug Discovery Building that will bring together pharmaceutical researchers from throughout the school, the Journal & Courier reported Thursday.

Plans are for the two buildings and a new 850-space parking garage to be completed in 2014 on the southern end of the Purdue campus.

"I think the basic premise is that we create an opportunity for many different similar disciplines to be co-located," said Christine Ladisch, dean of Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences.

Health and Human Sciences students currently taking classes in the basements of Heavilon and Lynn halls will be moving to Lyles-Porter Hall, Ladisch said. The building will also provide better parking and easier access for patients.

"Last year we had 5,000 individual patient visits," Ladisch said. "I think everybody is looking forward to a brand new beautiful facility."

The Drug Discovery Building will partially replace space in the Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, where a group led by professor Philip Low has developed novel treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Low is a founder and chief science officer for Endocyte, a West Lafayette pharmaceutical firm that is testing a new cancer-fighting agent and recently signed a deal with Merck worth potentially $1 billion.

"The fact that we will have a building devoted specifically to this scientific endeavor demonstrates that the university is very serious about becoming a pre-eminent site for the discovery and development of new drugs," Low said.

Purdue expects to move researchers from a variety of disciplines into the new facility, with plans to soon start a search for two researchers in the area of drug discovery to work there.

Lyles-Porter Hall is named in honor of a $10 million gift from Marybeth Lyles-Porter Higuera of Visalia, Calif., that was announced in 2009. Higuera is a former speech pathologist who received her bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology from Purdue in 1959.

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