October 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 17)

Moving Research from the Bench to Bedside through Utilization of Innovative Architecture

The rise of super specialization within medicine and medical research has made many things possible. It has allowed for highly focused efforts to seek solutions to complex diseases and disorders, and also helped to cultivate linear thinking. And, while this has its benefits, it can also limit the possibilities to finding creative solutions.

Recently, the industry has begun to celebrate cross-discipline work and collaboration. The crosspollination inherent in translational research (TR, also known as translational medicine) is also creating new architectural challenges and opportunities for research laboratories and clinical-care areas.

The TR process follows the logical steps from patient diagnosis, to research, to applied therapies, to patient care. Thus, a natural feedback loop is created where information from each point on the path informs the other. This continuous feedback loop, known as the bench-to-bedside process, increases research productivity and quality of patient care.


The City of Hope—Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology (CoH) in Duarte, CA, is an example of the bench-to-bedside process. At CoH bench-to-bedside means bringing the research lab closer to the hospital and closer to actual patient care. These processes and therapies are made possible through the proximity of patient care, which takes place directly across the street at Helford Clinical Research Hospital, and with the research taking place within the Beckman Center. This nearness makes the collaboration between the two as seamless as possible.

At CoH, collaboration happens on a variety of scales. On a site level, the building incorporates pathways for collaboration with adjacent facilities such as Helford Clinical Research Hospital. Internally, the two-story building fosters collaboration through the strategic organization of laboratory space, lab support space, and offices all funneling through a shared space and stairway.

In addition, one of the most unique features of the Beckman Center is the GMP facility, which more efficiently allows CoH researchers and clinicians to take the new therapies discovered from their research and make new drugs for the patients.

The City of Hope—Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology in Duarte, CA, features open research labs that promote interaction among researchers working in the shared space. [Benny Chan/fotoworks]

Centre for Brain Health

The Centre for Brain Health (CBH) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver provides another example where designed collaboration and interaction spaces drive creative TR solutions. Because the facility focuses on the prevention, causation, and treatment of brain dysfunction, the optimal treatment for these disorders requires the creation of interdisciplinary teams in integrated clinics.

Within the integrated clinics the TR process flows seamlessly, moving information between patient-care areas to wet-lab research space. A dry bench lab between the two areas forms a transition in the process, intertwining patient care with lab research activities. The degree of patient access, security, and types of research activities form the basis of the CBH linear distribution.

Four core architectural principles enhance the TR process at CBH. Integration of functions is a core principle to achieving TR goals. At CBH, the combination of interdisciplinary discovery and TR with integrated neurological, psychiatric, and related rehabilitation clinical services meets the needs of the building users.

A public atrium serves as the primary orientation and organizational space for the building. Public spaces on level 1 such as a café, centralized reception, and research clinic check-in are located directly off of the public “street” created at the lowest level of the atrium. Similarly, the remaining four upper floors are connected and integrated through the atrium space.

Collaboration is facilitated through a design strategy that fosters and enhances interdisciplinary associations, intellectual teamwork, knowledge transfer, and the generation of best practices.

Flexibility is incorporated into the CBH building to create and share resources and spaces. This enhances research partnerships, effectiveness, patient access, and treatments.

Sustainability is also a core principle at CBH as the facility seeks to achieve state-of-the-art LEED gold-certification. UBC provides an example of best practices in energy-conservation management, while also contributing to education and health improvements of patients, staff, and the public realm.

These are just two examples in the myriad of combinations available to increase the possibilities of research and the betterment of patient care through architecture. Each new opportunity provides exciting alternative paths to discovery. As the maturity curve continues to move forward in the TR field, buildings will improve efficiencies, save money, and deliver more effective therapies.

Scott G. Allen ([email protected]) is an associate and academic & biomedical research facility planner, and Mehmet Dogu ([email protected]) is the national resource knowledge manager for the science and technology group at Perkins+Will.

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