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Construction firm pledges perpetual research funding

By Jeff Hansel

jhansel@postbulletin.com

The Opus Group has announced that it will provide $1 million a year for research in Mayo Clinic’s new Opus Building.

The legacy grant will fund research in neuro-degenerative diseases, with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease research and related enabling technologies in the areas of predictive, preventive and curative medicine, said Opus Foundation spokesman Quentin Hietpas.

"This will ensure $1 million a year forever," said Mayo neurologist Dr. John Noseworthy. "This is truly transformational philanthropy."

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The $12 million, 40,000-square-foot Opus Building opened Monday. It houses the two-floor Mayo Clinic Center for Advanced Imaging Research, funded with a rare $2.4 million National Institutes of Health infrastructure grant, $2.6 million from Mayo and $7 million from the Opus Group, a private national real estate firm headquartered in Minneapolis.

Opus, created by Gerald Rauenhorst, gives 10 percent of pre-tax profits to such endeavors. Rauenhorst focused on Alzheimer’s disease because his wife, Henrietta "Hanky," was diagnosed with it.

Mayo radiologist Dr. Stephen Riederer said strong equipment will let researchers "examine the body from a microscopic to the systemic level." Research will focus on one-of-a-kind, custom-built equipment designed and constructed in the building, he said. New devices for taking pictures of the body’s internal structures will be tested. Good performers will move to the treatment setting and become routine at Mayo if validated.

The sensitive equipment in the building has built-in buffers against radio waves, vibration, radiation and sound.

Equipment includes a 3.0 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imagine machine that’s "100,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field," Riederer said. Room is reserved for a future 7.0 Tesla MRI.

The Opus Building will eventually reach 300,000 square feet.

The building can handle human and animal research subjects.

Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, attended Monday’s ribbon-cutting at the Opus Building and said that "many of the technologies that have improved MR imaging have come from Mayo Clinic."

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"I think a key thing is the translational component, where we’re taking research and converting it into patient care," said Joel Felmlee, a physicist in radiology.

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