BRF, Gov. Edwards break ground on new medical research complex in Shreveport

Gov. John Bel Edwards joined Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and BRF President and CEO Dr. John George Friday to break ground on a $14.2 million expansion for the Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy in Shreveport.

Scheduled to open near the end of 2020, the new facility will be the first of its kind in Louisiana, with delivery of next-generation diagnostic, treatment and research techniques through advanced radiopharmaceuticals.   

BRF, formerly the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, operates six business enterprises focused on healthcare, technology and innovation. The Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy, or CMIT, is one of those enterprises and its work focuses on diagnosis and therapy for chronic diseases, such as cancer, neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) and endocrine abnormalities.

Dr. George used heavy machinery Friday to demolish part of an old structure where the new CMIT will go. (Sean Green/BIZ.)

The project will create 25 new direct jobs while retaining 18 existing CMIT jobs. The new direct jobs will provide an average annual salary of $60,000, plus benefits, and Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in six new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 30 new jobs in northwest Louisiana.

“BRF has been an innovator and will continue to be a leader in the field of molecular imaging and research,” Gov. Edwards said. “Access to this technology is vitally important for Louisiana and this region. This expanded program will increase research collaboration opportunities for our universities and the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, ensure access to cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic care for patients, and extend investment in the biomedical and healthcare economies in the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor.”

The new CMIT and other BRF facilities are part of the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor. Five years ago, consultant Tripp Umbach estimated the corridor would be home to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and an annual economic impact estimated at nearly $5 billion by 2020. Major players in the corridor include Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport; Willis-Knighton Health System; Shriners Hospital for Children-Shreveport; the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, which includes a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital affiliate clinic; and the InterTech Science Park. BRF and its InterTech tenants employ a combined 490 people. 

Gov. Edwards and Mayor Perkins unveil the rendering for the CMIT building. (Sean Green/BIZ.)

Dr. George noted that this was BRF’s fourth building building in the hospital corridor and pledged, “We’re not going to stop.”

“CMIT and BRF are committed to pioneering biomedical research innovation in our region and state,” George said. “Diversifying and growing our economy is BRF’s mission, and we believe this initiative will be a transformative piece of that mission. We appreciate the support of the governor and Louisiana Economic Development for this important project.”

Mayor Perkins thanked BRF for their impact and investment in the community, adding they are a vital part of the Shreveport health corridor.

In February, Mayor Perkins announced the formation of a board and the creation of a formal structure for fully harnessing the economic potential of the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor.

“I am excited about the Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy,” Perkins said. “The medical community is a critical part of Northwest Louisiana’s economy. This investment in the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor brings both jobs and resources to Shreveport – and it brings them to a resource-deprived area. It grows our economy and improves healthcare in our city. It is a win for Shreveport.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards commended Mayor Perkins for creating a blueprint to better harness the health corridor that “employs thousands and has an economic impact in the billions of dollars.”

Dr. George prepares to use heavy machinery for some demolition. (Sean Green/BIZ.)

To secure the CMIT project, the State of Louisiana offered BRF a competitive incentive package that consists of a $1 million performance-based grant. The grant, to be paid in four annual installments of $250,000, will offset the costs of medical equipment and building expenses associated with the project. The new facility adjacent to BRF headquarters in the InterTech Science Park will consolidate CMIT operations under one roof in the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor.

“I commend BRF’s $14.2 million investment to develop the Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy in Shreveport,” said President Scott Martinez of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership. “Healthcare represents the largest employment sector in Shreveport-Bossier, and BRF’s investment supports both the economy and the quality of healthcare in our region.” 

In 1995, BRF opened the PET Imaging Center (later renamed CMIT) as the first molecular imaging, scanning and radiopharmaceutical production facility in Louisiana, and one of the nation’s first full-service, nonacademic centers of its kind.

“Molecular imaging is an invaluable tool that improves disease diagnosis, as well as management and treatment of such diseases as cancer, dementias and heart disease,” CMIT Executive Director Dr. Pradeep K. Garg said. “Targeted radiopharmaceuticals produced by CMIT will help diagnose diseases more precisely and accurately, and will help physicians in choosing more effective treatment options, and guide better outcomes for patients.”

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