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Peoria breaks ground for cancer research center

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Peoria groundbreaking

L-R: Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Heartland Partnership CEO Jim McConoughey, Ill. Rep. David Leitch, Ill. Sen. Dale Risinger, U of I President Michael Hogan, Ill. Rep. Jehan Gordon, professor Jasti Rao, regional dean Sara Rusch, Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Ill. Sen. David Koehler and Caterpillar vice president Greg Folley.

Photo: Kevin May

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was among dignitaries wielding a shovel at the groundbreaking Monday for the College of Medicine at Peoria's Cancer Research Expansion Project.

The 20,000-square-foot laboratory addition will house research by the department of cancer biology and pharmacology, headed by professor and program director Jasti Rao.

“We have spent nearly 10 years dreaming about this building and the vital research that will occur within it,” said regional dean Sara Rusch.

“Each of us has a friend or a relative who has been impacted by cancer. It is critically important that we find a cure.

"Peoria has the people, the plan and the potential. Now we are building the place.”

The center will be dedicated to the study of molecular, cellular and genetic characteristics involved in cancer. The project is a $10 million collaboration between the university, Caterpillar Inc., OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center, the Heartland Partnership, federal, state and local governments and private donors.

Others at the groundbreaking included U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., U of I President Michael Hogan and UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares.

The center is expected to generate about $35 million for Peoria’s economy, including up to 50 new jobs. Building completion is anticipated within 18 months.


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