The University of Mississippi is considering expanding or constructing a new pharmacy building after the state college board approved the School of Pharmacy to spend up to $1 million to design plans for renovation.
David Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy, said the expansion was proposed because of the pharmacy school’s continuous growth in recent years, and he said the school is quickly requiring more and more space. Around 450 students are enrolled in the pharmacy school now.
“The School of Pharmacy continues to grow its research and pharmacy education activities, and with space at a premium, we are looking to plan for the future,” Allen said.
The school secured $21 million in private funding last year, and Allen said he thinks this speaks to the school’s expanding research capabilities.
Don Stanford, assistant director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the process began when the University of Mississippi Facilities Planning department submitted a formal request to the state Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees in Jackson to begin the planning and design of the project.
The new facility may replace the existing Coy Waller Research Center, which currently grows legal marijuana for research purposes, according to Stanord. The university’s marijuana project is a part of the School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research and has been around since 1968. The new facility would contain labs for biomedical research and administrative offices.
“An expansion such as this research facility may help us conduct potentially life-saving research more efficiently,” Allen said.
Although the university is not yet sure of a location or possible costs for the facility, Allen said they are considering an area close to the Insight Park, which is the university’s business park that leases retail space near the Medicinal Plant Garden.
The university has authorized the School of Pharmacy to use the school’s internal resources to begin gathering ideas and surveying sites for the new building.
“We have held initial meetings with key constituents on campus to discuss a range of possibilities, but so far, there have been no costs,” Allen said.
The next steps will be to have architects submit designs for the building, then they will estimate construction costs. Once the costs are determined, the School of Pharmacy will seek further external funding and permission from the university to begin construction with the secured funds.
“The availability of funds at the School of Pharmacy and the permission of the university will determine if and on what timeline the project moves forward,” Allen said.
Shelby Strength, a first year pharmacy student, said she thinks renovations of the current research facilities are needed before expanding or constructing another building.
“With the limited space on campus, it would be more beneficial to spend available funds to remodel our current space, replace older lab equipment and invest in existing or potential research projects,” Strength said.
If it moves forward, the building will be the School of Pharmacy’s second added research space in only four years, the first being a new wing that was added to the Thad Cochran Center in 2015.