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The Chesterfield Re-Engineered: Collaborative Space for High-Impact Discovery and Entrepreneurship Opens

Collaborative ties between Duke University’s schools of engineering and medicine, and between Duke and its hometown, are stronger than ever with the opening of the new home for biomedical discovery—The Chesterfield.

Located at 701 West Main Street in downtown Durham, The Chesterfield was built in 1948 to produce cigarettes for the Liggett & Myers tobacco company and sat unused for years. With a new vision and extensive renovation, it is a sparkling glass workplace for scientists, clinicians, and entrepreneurs to meet and collaborate—and to find solutions to cancer and other challenges facing humanity.

“The Chesterfield shows the depth of the collaboration between Duke and Durham, and between Duke Medicine and Engineering, and it is also symbolic of the incredible growth happening in Duke Engineering right now,” said Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of Engineering. “The Chesterfield will be a place where Duke engineers work with our colleagues in medicine and the Durham community on challenges like developing new approaches to human disease, making quantum computing a reality and creating new technology to bring clean water and sanitation solutions to billions worldwide.”

Duke Engineering occupies more than 30,000 square feet in The Chesterfield, on the third and fourth floors. Faculty working in the building include Michael Lynch and Adam Wax of Biomedical Engineering; Ken Gall and Christine Payne of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; and David Brady, Jeffrey Glass, Jungsang Kim and Kenneth R. Brown of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Also in the building is a new Bioengineering Research Initiative to Develop Global Entrepreneurs, also known as BRiDGE, led by Ashutosh Chilkoti, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The initiative is an incubator for faculty bioengineering startups, and is currently is home to seven faculty companies: AccuBeing, Deep Blue Medical Advances, DMC, Gateway Bio, Isolere Bio, QATCH Technologies and Restor3D.

More than 200 people attended an opening ceremony for the Chesterfield Building for Life Science Research on May 8. Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth, School of Medicine Dean Mary Klotman, Duke Engineering’s Bellamkonda, and Scott Selig, associate vice president for capital assets, spoke at the event.

Durham resident and performer Joshua Gunn delivered an inspiring rapped poem that chronicled the history of the building and expressed optimism about its exciting new purpose.

Scientists and engineers whose work is especially translational—or ripe for entrepreneurial development—were chosen as some of the building’s first tenants. The vision is that co-habitation with local businesses—which include digital storage software firm Nutanix, LaunchBio, a nonprofit that supports life sciences-based entrepreneurs, and innovative coworking space BioLab—will lead to breakthrough ideas and products.

The building also includes affiliates of Marcus Center for Cellular Cures, a collaboration between the School of Medicine and Duke Engineering. The new center will bring together physicians and faculty across medicine and engineering at Duke to develop cellular and biological therapies for autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, and related brain disorders.

“It’s exciting to be co-located in this state-of-the-art facility with neighbors like the Pratt School of Engineering and Launchbio—both of whom share the vision of innovation and progress and embrace the concepts of partnership and collaboration,” Klotman said.

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