An early version of the state's budget bill proposes doling out $6 million to the University of Colorado's Boulder campus so the school can finish building academic labs and classrooms in its biotechnology building.

The funding -- while not definite until the budget bill is finalized later this spring -- would allow the university to finish what is now the shell of academic space in the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building.

The $160 million building on the east campus -- near Colorado Avenue and Foothills Parkway -- debuted last year as a 337,000-square-foot building with four multi-story wings.

Construction of the building has faced some major funding hurdles as state funding has been sparse amid the economic downturn.

The university moved forward with constructing the biotechnology building, but it split off two projects that would require further funding. The first is the $6.02 million project to complete the academic space, and the second is a $31 million project to construct a 57,350-square-foot academic wing -- a project that CU could be asking the state to fund in fiscal year 2014-15.

The Joint Budget Committee this legislative session has recommended that the state fulfill CU's $6.02 million request, a plan that still needs approval from both legislative chambers and the governor.

CU budget chief Todd Saliman said the university is hopeful the project will get the Legislature's approval.


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"We take everything at the Capitol one year at a time," he said. "We're thrilled this project was approved by the JBC."

Project plans call for labs and desks that could accommodate more than 150 undergraduate students. The academic space would also include an auditorium for large conferences, seminar rooms, classrooms, computer labs and teaching labs.

If the funding comes through, students could begin taking classes and labs in the biotechnology building by the spring semester of 2014, said Steve Thweatt, campus architect. The purpose of the project is to add modern lab space and allow students from different disciplines to work together, Thweatt said.

"The spaces they are currently in are outdated," he said.

University planning officials have kept the biotechnology building atop the school's capital construction wish list for when state funds do come available.

The biotechnology building is a science hub where researchers from several disciplines come together to collaborate on a wide range of challenges, including treatments for cancer and heart disease, advancing tissue engineering and creating new biofuels. Among the scientists working in the new building is Tom Cech, a Nobel Prize winner.

The planned fifth wing would hold additional teaching labs and classrooms, housing the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the biochemistry division of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Moving those programs onto the east campus would help alleviate overcrowding on the main campus, according to planning documents.

University officials, though, acknowledge they may need to explore other funding sources to complete that wing.

The building is now mostly funded by private donations. The school also received $15 million for its construction from the National Institutes of Health through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Colorado boasts particular potential in the biosciences, with existing businesses generating more than $400 million in state taxes and supporting 36,000 workers.

At CU, biotechnology research has led to more than a dozen startup companies and attracts tens of millions of dollars annually in sponsored research grants.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.