The University of Kentucky held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday for a new building that symbolizes the school's hopes of improving Kentucky's dismal health statistics.
The $265 million as yet unnamed building will be a hub of interdisciplinary research aimed at solving Kentucky's high rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The research will try to cure those diseases while also understanding the myriad problems related to them.
"Today, we commence building — not for ourselves, but for the future and the health of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Capilouto said. "We have said that it is time for death to be a beggar in Kentucky. Today, we mark in a tangible and real way our intent to deliver on that promise."
The building, scheduled to open in 2018, will be half funded by the state and half by UK, officials said. Some funds will be generated via philanthropy, including the first $250,000 donated by Capilouto last year.
Last year, legislators on both sides of the aisle enthusiastically embraced the idea and provided the money to make it happen.
"This project represents the potential to improve the lives of so many, both within Kentucky where our health outcomes are so poor, and beyond," said Gov. Steve Beshear, who attended the ceremony Friday morning. "Our entrenched health problems won't improve without major investment like this project."
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester took an early role in championing the project because of his experience with family and friends with cancer in Clay County.
"Naturally a legislator does things that have an impact in their districts, but for the state as a whole, I know of nothing in my 19 years that will have" as large of an impact as the new research facility, Stivers said.
The multidisciplinary work will be done by a variety of researchers, not just in health and public health, but in behavioral sciences, agriculture, outreach and extension, economics and engineering.
The new building will be linked to other major research space in the heart of the campus, the Bio-Pharmacy Building and the Biological Biomedical Research Building. The area is now being referred to as the "Appalachian Translational Trail"
"We know that so much of discovery today — whether at the cellular or community level — happens at the intersection of disciplines," said Lisa Cassis, UK's vice president for research.
"This facility is being designed to foster discovery and collaboration so that what happens in labs and in the course of basic research can be translated to answers and solutions at the community level."
UK is a founding sponsor of the SOAR (Saving Our Appalachian Region) initiative, sponsored by Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers, and has more than 300 actively funded research projects in the region.