In 2007, a Bayer Pharmaceuticals research facility was hard at work manufacturing penicillin and Alka-Seltzer, two of the most commonly available drugs in the world, seven miles from Yale’s campus. More than a decade later, that same facility is now home to Yale’s West Campus, a science hub that houses seven interdisciplinary research institutes and the School of Nursing.

This week marks the end of a yearlong celebration commemorating the 10th anniversary of West Campus’s founding. The University purchased the 136-acre facility from Bayer in 2007, a move that then-University President Richard Levin GRD ’74 described as “a once-in-a-century opportunity.” Now, West Campus hosts over 1,600 students, faculty and staff across its numerous institutes focused on health, culture, energy and the environment .

“West Campus [has] provided an opportunity for the University to create interdisciplinary programs in science, engineering and the arts,” said Provost Ben Polak. “I have repeatedly been impressed by the creativity, imagination and collaboration of the students, faculty and staff on West Campus.”

At the Founders Day festivities hosted on Cross Campus on Tuesday, the University showcased a sample of the research done on West Campus.

West Campus Communications Officer Jon Atherton told the News that he was excited to see West Campus celebrate its anniversary at the same time as Yale for Founders Day. He added that West Campus’s presence at the celebration on Cross Campus illustrates how West Campus has become an integrated part of the greater Yale community.

This was not always the case. Administrators charged with developing the science hub faced challenges from the outset as they struggled to convince scientists to move to the new facility.

“Imagine this empty campus with some of the labs equipped and all of the buildings built, but no people in them,” said Scott Strobel, vice president for West Campus Planning and Program Development.

It took years of brainstorming and renovations, as well as the hiring of new faculty and researches, before the former industrial complex reached its current, more active state. Now, seven new interdisciplinary institutes based at West Campus — Energy Sciences, Systems Biology, Chemical Biology, Cancer Biology, Nanobiology, Microbial Sciences and the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage — bolster University research efforts and foster collaboration among faculty. In 2013, the School of Nursing also relocated from its downtown New Haven location to West Campus.

Strobel cited the School of Nursing’s move as “a tipping point” for the vitality of West Campus. He explained that once the School moved to its new location, its many faculty and students helped connect West Campus to the greater University community.

Though some students were not optimistic about the school’s move in 2013, School of Nursing Dean Ann Kurth told the News said that “numerous benefits” that came with the school’s relocation, including new opportunities for expansion.

“I’m also very excited about the future,” Kurth said. “One building next to the school is still not occupied. I’m hoping that it will entice potential clinical partners to West Campus.”

Construction is currently underway to transform the campus’s landscape. Large fences now block off a large former parking lot as construction vehicles inside tear up the cement and workers lay sod in its place. The area, slated for completion by the end of the year, will be transformed into the campus’s main quad.

Strobel stressed that West Campus’s administration undertook multiple initiatives over the years to transform its industrial-looking research facility into a more welcoming space. A couple of years ago, the University built a cafeteria and a space to facilitate student interaction for the hub, Strobel said.

“There’s really a sense of community on the campus which didn’t exist 10 years ago,” he said.

Yale purchased West Campus from Bayer HealthCare for $109 million.

Lorenzo Arvanitis  |