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When disease is good for you

South Dakota State Roundup

July 1, 2008

When disease is good for you

Sioux Falls, and South Dakota in general, is hoping to leverage a spot on the research map from an ambitious expansion plan by Sanford Health, which was jump-started by a $400 million donation from local philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

The firm is planning a 185-acre development that will include a research park as well as office and manufacturing space that could eventually encompass 2 million square feet and employ up to 6,000.

Combined with other Sanford developments, including a new children's hospital and heart and vascular specialty facilities, the health firm is hoping to spur greater research capacity and biomedical development. The first facility will house joint research efforts already under way between Sanford and the University of South Dakota, which the firm hopes will help attract similar kinds of health firms. But the land development project also includes plans for hotels, retailers and other businesses.

But the conversational jewel of this project is Sanford's intent to cure a single disease. Helped by a research-based consultant group, Sanford's board of directors spent months studying disease options, narrowing the ultimate choice to four diseases: lupus, type 1 diabetes, pediatric multiple sclerosis and human papillomavirus-related cancers. In early June, Sanford Health chose type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, as its research focus and expects to spend $30 million over the next five to seven years.

Ronald A. Wirtz