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U of L to expand Envirome Institute with new campus downtown

The new campus will include two buildings, with research labs, and a green space.
The new campus will include two buildings, with research labs, and a green space.

New research labs, including one focused on sleep study, are coming to downtown. 

The University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Insititute announced an expansion Wednesday. 

The “New Vision of Health Campus” will be located on Muhammad Ali Boulevard near 4th street. It will include two renovated historic buildings, one of which was originally the home of the Business Women's Club. Altogether, it’s 133,000 square feet and an outdoor green space.

The new campus is focused on continuing the holistic study of health the institute is known for. 

“This space will be dedicated to improving well-being and promoting equity by examining health as a shared resource dependent on environmental and social factors,” U of L interim president Lori Stewart Gonzalez said.

The institute looks at how several environmental factors contribute to larger health outcomes. 

“Since its very inception, the institute has been focused on understanding the human envirome,” director Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar said. “That is a parallel to the human genome, together with the genome and the envirome is what determines our health and our wellbeing.”

Bhatnagar said that while researchers know a lot about disease, their understanding of health is not as complete. 

“We do not know what health is, how it could be promoted, enhanced and understood,” Bhatnagar said.

One facet of his work is to determine how to measure health. 

Bhatnagar called the work of the institute a “joint venture” which includes working with academics across disciplines, including those working outside of the hard sciences. 

“In keeping with this new vision of health, we hope to belong to our community and our city,” Bhatnagar said.

The new campus is being initially funded by a donation from Christina Lee Brown.

The donation included $30 million of support over the 20 years and rent-free use of the buildings, which she owns, where the new campus is located.

U of L estimated the value of the rent-free space at $17 million.

The combined monetary and space donation makes this the largest donation the school has ever received according to Jill Scoggins, director of external communications at U of L.

“This is a pursuit that requires a new way of thinking that no longer chases single causes [of health issues],” Brown said. “We, therefore, must acknowledge and be inspired by the complexity of our interdependent world where history is our shared legacy and health is our shared aspiration.”

Stewart Gonzalez said U of L will be hiring scientists to lead the work at the new campus. 

Renovations on the building had begun before Brown agreed to let U of L use the space.

University officials estimate the renovations and construction to be complete in three years.


Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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