When Pfizer Inc. closed its doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2007, University of Michigan leadership realized that the former pharmaceutical research campus would be an excellent addition to its already successful research endeavors.

A top research university, the University of Michigan put together a plan to acquire the site for an unheralded expansion – one that would bring scientists and entrepreneurs together – and encourage the kind of collaboration that would bring quick research results. This is known as “bringing the laboratory bench to the bedside,” or, in other words, turning the research that is being done today into the medications, devices and technologies of tomorrow.

Here are some of the highlights of NCRC’s history.

In December 2008, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the decision to negotiate the purchase of the former Pfizer pharmaceutical research campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Led by University of Michigan Medical School Dean Dr. James O. Woolliscroft, the U-M Health System developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to contribute to the purchase and to provide a 10-year window of funding for capital investment and operations. Senior leadership signed the MOU on March 16, 2009. The U-M Health System provided approximately 70 percent of the final purchase price, as well as a revenue stream to support operating costs and capital renovations over a 10-year period to allow for staged activation of the 2-million-square-foot facility.

During this time, Dr. Woolliscroft hosted the first meeting of the Internal Advisory Group (IAG), composed of deans from major research schools and colleges, and other key academic leaders across the University. The IAG reviewed and commented on strategic research and administrative decisions during NCRC’s initial development. In addition, Central Campus and North Campus held town hall meetings to promote the new campus’s shared opportunity and to collect feedback.

Furthermore, the Research Scientific Programming (RSP) Committee held its kickoff meeting. Teams such as Research Assessment, IT and Cores, Innovation and Public-Private Partnerships launched to explore options and provide feedback on opportunities for growing and populating the campus. Other faculty work groups launched, including Health Services Research, Drug Discovery and Neurosciences (April 2009), and Imaging and Biointerfaces (May/June 2009).

Between December 2008 and May 2009, U-M Facilities & Operations worked with external consultants to perform a comprehensive due diligence evaluation, including completion of an environmental assessment, title and survey work, and a facility condition assessment. U-M Executive Vice president and Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow, shared the findings and the recommendations with the Board of Regents on May 18, 2009, and received authorization to proceed with the purchase.

The University of Michigan successfully completed the acquisition on June 16, 2009, and named the site the University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex.

But there is actually more to the story!

In 1950, U-M purchased 300 acres of farmland in Northeast Ann Arbor to develop what is today’s bustling U-M North Campus. In 1957, U-M sold some of that property to Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company, which was subsequently acquired by Warner Lambert in 1970. In 2000, Pfizer acquired Warner Lambert, and in 2002, U-M sold additional acreage to Pfizer. In 2009, Pfizer sold the original property – along with its facilities and contents – back to the University of Michigan. Sometimes, things come full circle.