Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Moving Microbes and Microscopes

ORLANDO, Fla. , April 22, 2009

Scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) began packing and moving their laboratories and high tech equipment today for transport to a new state-of-the-art campus at the “medical city” in Lake Nona.

More than a dozen moving companies and equipment specialists are participating in a multi-phase move over the next three weeks. The complicated process requires scientists to pause research mid-experiment and stabilize cell cultures for transport. The new 175,000 square-foot institute is scheduled to be occupied by mid-May.

Transporting millions of dollars worth of microscopes, robots and finely calibrated equipment involves specially-designed crates to protect the cargo, liquid nitrogen to freeze delicate cells to minus 346 degrees Fahrenheit (10 times colder than ice), lab-trained movers and 3,000 feet of bubble wrap.

Dr. Björn Tyrberg, a diabetes researcher, moved a half-million dollar microscope while taking special precautions to protect his tiny insulin-producing cells during transport. Dr. Layton Smith, who studies obesity-related heart disease, froze 10 million cells in advance of the move so he could quickly restart his research at the new Burnham laboratories. He also supervised the moving of a robot used to mimic the human body’s response to test-chemicals.

“This is a complicated process,” said Cyril Doucet, vice president of operations for Burnham. “But we started planning for the move more than eight months ago. We had to plan thoroughly to minimize the impact on our research and to keep our science moving forward.”

In all, scientists moved more than 350 pieces of equipment, from a vortexer (the size of a tea kettle), to a 4-foot by 8-foot bio-safety cabinet. The microscopes alone are valued at $1 million and each piece of equipment must be disassembled, reassembled and recalibrated. Because the equipment is so unique and sensitive, if a piece breaks, it can take months to repair it or find a replacement.

Burnham’s facility is the first to be completed at Orlando’s new life science community that will include a medical school, two hospitals and two research centers. Burnham scientists at the Lake Nona campus will conduct biomedical research on diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute


Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs 1,200 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), California and Orlando (Lake Nona), Florida. For more information, visit us at sanfordburnham.org.

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