Thursday, July 14, 2005 | The North Life Science Building in July is an abandoned warren of murky, airless halls. In an obscure offshoot of the main tunnel, amidst a clutter of paper glowing in a yellow bath of tungsten bulbs, biology professor Roger Davis seeks enlightenment in a new frontier of research investigating microbial causes of heart disease.

But enlightenment doesn’t come easy in the gloom of outdated offices and labs. Davis looks forward to January, when he is the first researcher at San Diego State University scheduled to move into the new BioScience Center, a $14.3 million, 38,000-square-foot project that promises to feed the university’s already strong background in cardiac biology and microbial sciences with the space and light it desperately needs to grow.

Davis’ eyes gleam at the thought of the towering mass of steel and tarpaper taking form on campus.

“I never thought I would live to see the day,” he said. “The BioScience Center is the first big investment at San Diego State in a building devoted entirely to research. And it’s a wonderful change.”

The change will potentially alter the lives of more than just sun-starved SDSU professors. The center is aimed at building partnerships across different scientific fields to investigate a link found between chronic infections of the everyday sort – such as bronchitis, gum disease and urinary tract infections – and heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

It’s a line of research with tidal-wave consequences in a field that has traditionally relied, without conviction, upon genetic and lifestyle explanations for the illness. The discovery of infectious factors has opened up the potential to treat the source – not just the symptoms – of heart disease.

Stanley Maloy, a biology professor and director of the SDSU Center for Microbial Sciences, says that the building will play a huge role in bringing the university’s researchers from cardio and microbial fields together in a shared lab space to stimulate new development.

“Somebody who’s thought very hard about heart disease will be working on a bench side-by-side with somebody who’s talking about microbes and the two of them will come up with new ideas they wouldn’t have had sitting in their own space. There is not such a focus anywhere in the country that I know of,” Maloy said.

The new space is also aimed at facilitating networking among different institutions in San Diego and beyond, introducing an element of diversity, which Maloy says is integral to good science.

“If you have a blind guy feeling an elephant, no one will ever know what the elephant looks like,” Maloy said. “But if you had enough blind guys feeling an elephant, and if they were talking to each other, you could build a Braille picture of an elephant and begin to really conceptualize what a complex problem it is. It’s that type of interaction that this building is all about.”

But in the end it’s just a building, some might say – it’s what goes on inside that’s important.

Maloy, who is lucky enough to have a window in his current North Life Science Building office, disagrees.

“It’s about creating a space that inspires creativity and interaction. It’s windows. It’s corners. It’s the shape of the building. It’s when you walk in, in the morning, and you feel good.”

He glances at a photograph of a window designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on his wall, a graceful geometric blend of art and science that struck the good professor as worth framing.

“It can change your perspective.”

Please contact Jessica L. Horton directly at

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