A goldmine for research

Published 2014-09-01 12:50. Updated 2017-02-21 09:58
Ernest Arenas and Marie Arsenian Henriksson. Photo: Gustav Mårtensson 

While the Biomedicum research laboratory is still just a huge construction pit, the plans for inside the building are well underway. Cooperation is the keyword, as departmental barriers are torn down and new practices are drawn up and established.

Here, where we now see piles of gravel, excavators digging and builders drilling, is where Karolinska Institutet’s new Biomedicum research laboratory will stand. The close to 63,000 sq. m. total building area,  will be ready for use in 2018, when roughly 1,700 scientists and other personnel will move in to conduct world-class research directed at improving human health.

"Taking the vision from plan to reality is the task of a special team comprising the heads of the five departments that will be moving in to Biomedicum.  The group has a rotating chair" says Marie Arsenian Henriksson, head of the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, who led the group until the end of June.

“It sends a signal that we’re doing this together and that everyone’s opinions are valuable,” she says.

"And that signal is important. Because when the five departments move to Biomedicum, they’re not just moving into new premises, they’re also taking on a new way of working" says Ernest Arenas, head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, and the team’s new chairperson.  

“Our aim is to break down old departmental and disciplinary barriers, gather scientists working in the same fields and find synergies between different research groups,” he says. “The building itself is exciting, but even more so are the opportunities we’ll have to achieve so much more by working together like this.”

The block is being erected around the research to be conducted there rather than around departments, and the installation of research groups is to follow the principle that those sharing a particular technique, say proteomics, will be placed closest to it. The need to invest in general, expensive equipment is being reviewed. 

“We have to apply for funding for that, which will be coordinated with KI’s other research environments that are under construction, and hopefully with a future fundraising campaign,” says Professor Arsenian Henriksson.

So far, much of the planning has focused on the building itself. But work has also begun on a general administration, which will start operating before the actual move. To raise the research to a higher level, the team is also looking at the techniques being used now and those that will probably be used in the future, such as new imaging techniques or microscopy.

Work on drafting a common strategy will commence this autumn (2014).

“We’ll come to a shared understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and of the areas that need to be given priority for recruitment,” says Professor Arenas.

They both agree that the greatest challenge is to form a common culture amongst the departments, a process that the team itself has even undergone, says Professor Arsenian Henriksson.

“We didn’t know each other at first, but we’ve found a way of working together and now have each other’s full confidence and trust,” she says. “So now it’s a matter of passing this on to our respective departments.”

Text: Sara Nilsson

The article was first published in KI Bladet 3/2014.

Departments moving in to Biomedicum

  • Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology: Head of Department Marie Arsenian Henriksson.
  • Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics: Head of Department Ernest Arenas.
  • Department of Physiology and Pharmacology: Head of Department Stefan Eriksson.
  • Department of Neuroscience: Head of Department Sandra Ceccatelli.
  • Department of Cell and Molecular Biology: Head of Department Christer Höög.

The Biomedicum steering committee:

  • Anders Hamsten, Vice Chancellor (chair)
  • Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren, Dean of Research
  • Rune Fransson, Director of Infrastructure
  • The five departmental heads

The committee is to ensure that the project is aligned with KI’s general goals.

Under the steering committee are:

  • The Head of Departments Team, the chair of which rotates. The five departmental heads have responsibility for determining the dimensions of the rooms and describing the research environments, as well as for the strategic policy, organisation, communication and the practicalities of the move itself.
  • Project manager: Kerstin Lundin, University Administration.
  • The Facilities Committees, chaired by Mats Lilja, project manager at the Facilities Office.
  • Under these groups are several sub-groups, including the Drafting Committee, comprising two researchers from each department, and an IT infrastructure group.

Article first published in KI Bladet 3/2014.