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ASU's new Health Futures Center provides fresh intersections with Mayo Clinic to transform health care

State-of-the-art facility designed to support medical research, learning and entrepreneurship

Exterior of the new Health Futures Center
May 23, 2021

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2021 year in review.

Less than a mile south of the Loop 101 in northeast Phoenix, on a plot of land that just two years ago was nothing but dirt, a new silhouette that represents the future of health care in Arizona has cropped up against the backdrop of the Valley it will serve.

Arizona State University’s brand-new Health Futures Center, home of the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care, is the latest development in the nearly two-decades-long relationship between the nation’s most innovative university and the recognized world leader in patient care, medical education and research. Through the alliance the two organizations have a shared goal of bringing the brightest minds together to accelerate cutting-edge research discoveries, improve patient care through innovation, and transform medical education to enhance health outcomes at individual, community and national levels.

The state-of-the-art facility will support interdepartmental research and collaborative programs with Mayo Clinic — including ASU’s College of Health Solutions, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute — on a new campus, establishing a nexus of research, teaching and meeting space.

“We don’t know what innovations lie ahead,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “But what we do know is that this campus, this facility, will be driven around the notion of innovate, innovate, innovate. We want this campus, this facility, the new Health Futures Center to be a part of that catalytic process.”

Video by ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Over the years, ASU and Mayo Clinic have worked closely on programs that range from nursing to medical imaging to regenerative and rehabilitative medicine to wearable biosensors. They have also worked together on dual degree programs, a nursing education program, research projects, more than 80 joint faculty appointments and numerous joint intellectual property disclosures.

The Health Futures Center will house leading-edge facilities for biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, advanced simulation health care technology, and workplace and meeting spaces. Its design maximizes the amount of interdepartmental shared space to generate ongoing opportunities across the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care.

“Mayo Clinic has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Arizona State University through our Alliance for Health Care, and this new proximity through the opening of the Health Futures Center will expand our strategic intersections,” said Richard J. Gray, vice president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “As an international destination for care in Arizona, our team is relentlessly advancing solutions for serious or complex conditions within a patient-centered model. To this end, we are privileged to have the No. 1 university for innovation as our neighbor as we — together — create more opportunity for health care discovery.”

ASU’s new center is the first of several buildings planned to dot the surrounding landscape in what is expected to become a hub for innovative medical research and development in the coming years. ASU leases the property that the center is located on from the Arizona State Land Trust; the city of Phoenix provided funding for infrastructure improvements, and ASU paid for the construction of the building.

“Biomedical research, innovation and advanced medical manufacturing will be the backbone of the workforce in the Phoenix of the future,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “The exciting thing is that we are approaching that future at lightning speed. The discoveries that occur because of this important alliance will not only improve the future of patients who seek care, it will also dramatically improve the economy and quality of life throughout the city of Phoenix.” 

The 150,000-square-foot Health Futures Center is adjacent to Mayo Clinic’s Phoenix campus and connected through a desert pathway. The center’s first floor houses a combination of research and collaborative space, including wet and dry labs, a movement lab with cardio and strength research capabilities, learning studios, a demonstration kitchen and a 300-person auditorium for continuing education, presentations and events. The second floor is home to the MedTech Accelerator, an initiative that shepherds medical device and health care IT early-stage companies to accelerate their discoveries to market and acquire funding. The third floor houses a simulation lab, where ASU nursing students and current practitioners will have access to cutting-edge technology and real-life environments as part of their training.

“When I was a student, we used an orange for our simulation to give an injection” said Judith Karshmer, dean of ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “Things have changed. The simulation center creates such a realistic environment that they (students) have a chance to think through patient care, not just do patient care.”

Karshmer said the alliance with Mayo Clinic allows researchers and faculty to be proactive about the latest medical technology advances and the newest evidence-based patient care, closing the gap between education and practice.

“I think the most exciting thing that’s going to come out of this building, we can’t even envision yet,” she said.

Rafael Fonseca, director of innovation and transformational relationships at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, sees the Health Futures Center as poised to transform the health care workforce by:

  • Advancing disruptive, medical, health science and professional education for the future of health care and lifelong learners.
  • Optimizing health and the human body by enhancing human performance across the lifespan and through collaborative research that explores innovative treatments and, ultimately, results in cures.
  • Streamlining and connecting health-care delivery through novel capabilities provided by digital health tools that reach patients everywhere.
  • Remaining laser-focused on biomedical innovation through co-creation and co-development of new medical devices and startup companies aimed at the modernization of health care.

For those in health care and beyond, experience in the pandemic has demonstrated that transformative outcomes are possible with open collaboration, a key factor in the Health Futures Center’s design and aspirations. Jacqueline Carmona, a graduate student in molecular and cellular biology at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU who is engaged with researchers at the center, said collaborating across fields “keeps the research moving forward, faster.”

“We’ve seen it with the current epidemic — the fact that so many labs worked together, we were able to gather a lot of information in less than a year,” said Carmona. “… I would tell future students that this is a great time to get into research. There have been so many advances in computational biology; we have better imaging and collaborations like the one with ASU and Mayo Clinic that allows for students to be mentored by experts in the field.”

Mayo Clinic is currently reinvesting in Arizona and doubling the size of the Phoenix hospital campus through the largest capital expansion project in the organization’s 157-year history. The co-location of the ASU Health Futures Center is occurring at a key moment of growth for both organizations. Just this year, ASU has grown its research, innovation and living spaces through the opening of the 850 PBC building, the latest additions to the Novus Innovation Corridor and the intergenerational living and learning complex Mirabella at ASU. Construction is underway on a number of other projects, including the high-performance research facility Interdisciplinary Science and Technology 7, which will house the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.

“These investments in the health of our communities, in the robustness of our research, even the outlook of our planet — these are crucial steps toward a better future for all of us,” Crow said. “The Health Futures Center and the incredibly innovative discoveries that happen within its walls will benefit all of us.”

Top photo: The 150,000-square-foot Health Futures Center will house researchers from several ASU schools and colleges that will benefit from the proximity to the Mayo Clinic's Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

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