Baltimore's High-Tech Future

October 11, 1992

With today's groundbreaking ceremony for the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration, Baltimore takes a giant step toward becoming a prominent world center for biotechnology in the 21st century. The new center will span Inner Harbor Piers 4, 5 and 6 and house seven major facilities conceived as the centerpiece of Maryland's long-term goal of developing a high-tech economy based on the life sciences.

The $200 million project is being financed through a mix of public and private funds, with Baltimore City and the state of Maryland contributing 60 percent of the cost. The rest will come from Washington and private foundations, corporations and individuals. The payoff: 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs that could result by the end of the decade from commercial spin-offs of the center's research and development activities.

At the heart of the Columbus Center will be the Center of Marine Biotechnology -- the largest, most advanced facility of its type in the world. Its mission is to carry out basic research in such areas as marine pharmacology, aquaculture, ocean pollution and replenishing Maryland's native oysters.

Scientists, for example, have long recognized the potential of marine flora and fauna to produce pharmaceutical chemicals. Through genetic engineering, researchers at the biotech center hope to produce many such compounds in the lab, opening the way for development of commercially viable drugs against such diseases as cancer and AIDS.

Adjacent to the Center of Marine Biotechnology will be the Marine Mammal Pavilion, the Center of Marine Archaeology and the Maritime Museum. These buildings will allow the public to become direct participants in the Columbus Center's educational programs and exhibitions. The complex will also include a plaza, conference center, a performance tent for outdoor concerts and the refurbished Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse on Pier 5.

"Baltimore takes a giant leap into the future with its very substantial financial and philosophical commitment to the Christopher Columbus Center," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke remarked recently. "By setting aside one of our last remaining prime pieces of urban real estate for the purposes of this important Center, we signal this great city's commitment to the significance of education, research and the desire to explore."

With construction now officially under way, we are confident the Christopher Columbus Center will amply justify the high hopes of all those who have worked to make the dream of a world-class marine science center in Baltimore a reality.

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