April 10 2017

$150 million in state budget for new health lab in Albany area

Albany Business Review

By: Michael DeMasi

The new state budget includes $150 million to build a laboratory in the Albany, New York, area that will consolidate the Health Department Wadsworth Center labs.

Still to be determined: the size, location and total cost.

The new lab “will develop life science research, innovation and infrastructure through a joint effort between Empire State Development and the Department of Health,” according to Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Budget Division.

The budget language allows the lab to be built using the “design-build” method to hire contractors. The approach cuts costs and speeds completion times, but is opposed by public sector unions because they say it diminishes accountability on taxpayer-financed construction projects.

Wadsworth Center consists of five labs, including the Biggs Laboratory — buried deep under the Empire State Plaza — that is decades old and has suffered from leaky roofs, burst pipes and power outages.

The labs will be consolidated into one campus in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga or Schenectady counties.

The University at Albany’s Health Sciences Campus in East Greenbush (formerly known as the East Campus) may have the upper-hand, given the concentration of academic researchers and private-sector employees at the 95-acre campus and the university’s desire to raise its profile in the health sciences and biopharmaceutical industry.

It remains to be seen whether there’s also an attempt to rekindle an earlier plan to build the new lab at the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to build a $600 million, 650,000-square-foot lab on the office campus in 2014, but that plan fizzled.

“It’s just unknown at this time,” said Andrew Kennedy, president and CEO of Center for Economic Growth, which views a new state lab as an important part of growing the region’s biotech cluster. “There seems to be a lot of moving parts.”

Kennedy believes the University at Albany’s School of Public Health and the Wadsworth Center will work together to submit a proposal to Empire State Development and the Health Department for the new lab, whose size hasn’t been disclosed.

“The question is what location, and how much does it ultimately cost?” Kennedy said.

University at Albany released the following statement: “We look forward to hearing more about the state budget’s promise to invest in expanding health sciences and biomedical research and innovation. The University at Albany’s School of Public Health has a 30-year partnership with the New York State Department of Health and is always looking for new ways to deepen that relationship especially given the opportunities that the budget offers.”

Funding Partners