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MU opens Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building

The University of Missouri (MU) celebrated the opening of the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building Tuesday, honoring the outgoing U.S. senator while ushering in a new era for the university.

Blunt was on hand for the ceremony alongside Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, and UM System leaders in Columbia Tuesday, touting the economic and scientific benefits of the new facility. 

“We’re proud to have this world-class facility in the heart of Missouri,” Blunt said. “NextGen will have an estimated $5.6 billion impact on our state’s economy over the next 25 years, create local jobs in high-demand industries and — most importantly — provide personalized care to Missourians and cement our place as a leader in biomedical research.”

The UM Board unanimously voted to name the facility after Blunt last month, noting his contributions to the university over his tenure on Capitol Hill. 

Blunt has been instrumental in increasing funding for campus-aid programs by more than 20 percent and secured $25 million for UM to help address a doctor shortage, according to the university. He also reinstated Year-Round Pell in 2017, allowing students to receive additional assistance throughout the year. 

“This is a transformative moment for the University of Missouri,” MU President Mun Choi said. “This is our highest priority because we want to improve the lives of Missourians and others around the world. With the opening of NextGen, we now have all the crucial elements to accelerate discovery and even better fulfill our mission of research, education, and service to Missouri.”

The facility, which cost more than $220 million, houses electron microscopes and other scientific equipment used for cancer research on the molecular level and brings together clinicians from the system’s four research universities. The 256,000-foot facility anchors the NextEra Precision Health Initiative, a project focused on innovation and collaboration across the UM system. 

Researchers will study heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases through cross-discipline research and state-of-the-art technology.

​​“Precision medicine allows health care providers to develop treatments tailored to fit each person,” Collins, who is also leaving his position, said. “Facilities like NextGen are helping researchers build a personalized approach to medicine, while also addressing underlying issues faced by all communities.”

The center was funded in part through a partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific and a grant from the Midwest Biochemical Accelerator Consortium as well as local, state, and federal funds. 

Blunt was also awarded the 2021 Gordon Warren Land-Grant Award for his support of the new facility and the university over the years. The award was presented Tuesday morning as part of UM System Engagement Week. 

Blunt is not seeking re-election in 2022 to the seat he’s held for more than a decade. Several contenders have thrown their hats into the ring to compete for the spot. 

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