The UCSB Academic Senate approved plans for the university’s Center for BioEngineering, scheduled to open in 2014 as a juncture for the campus’s fledging exploration into the field.

Construction for the project — a collaborative effort between the university’s departments in biology, engineering and physical science — is set to begin in 2012 and will feature a three-story, 48,000 square foot building housing the center’s laboratories and offices for approximately 15 faculty members and graduate students as well as a 100-seat auditorium. The center will expand research capabilities and take up ongoing projects including the development of an artificial pancreas to treat diabetes, targeted therapies for cancer treatment, early detection of various diseases and the mathematical modeling of human diseases and conditions.

According to CBE Founding Director Samir Mitragotri, a chemical engineering professor, the facilities will allow students to gain a better understanding of research areas such as drug delivery, biomedical engineering and diagnostics.

“Such research requires a collaborative effort among researchers from various disciplines,” Mitragotri said. “At the same time, it is also necessary that our students are appropriately trained to undertake such research. CBE aims to provide the logistical support to such activities.”

College of Engineering Associate Dean of Research Frank Doyle, who initially proposed the idea for the center, said the partnership will better facilitate studies amongst various departments.

“Bioengineering at UCSB has been scattered around in various places,” Doyle said. “Now we’re going to have an identity, whereas before it was a diffused notion that the campus was doing this, but it was here, there and everywhere.”

The National Institutes of Health gave the center a $4.5 million grant to develop an artificial pancreas and test it outside the clinic.

Doyle said the facility will allow the necessary medical trials and collaboration between students and doctors to complete the project.

“When partnered together, we can do things as a team that neither of us could do alone,” Doyle said. “We’re creating truly unique partnerships. Our strong science and technology engineers with medical institutes solve very difficult and compelling medical problems.”

The CBE plans to work with various medical institutions, including the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Morgridge Institute for Research and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

According to Vice Chair of Chemical Engineering Patrick Daugherty, a CBE faculty member, researchers work on individual projects within the facility.

“We are providing a pathway for accelerated growth in bioengineering at UCSB that capitalizes on our strengths,” Daugherty said. “[CBE] is a vehicle to help push forward and strengthen our educational foundations in bioengineering, as well as increase recruitment of the most outstanding talent worldwide.”

Philip Pincus — director of the Biomolecular Science and Engineering Program and professor of materials and physics — said the center will unite scholars in a structured setting and provide a haven for cutting-edge advancements in the bioengineering field.

“It’s really a very worthwhile, worthy and dynamic process that’s going on and it makes a lot of sense because this is really the decade of biology,” Pincus said. “There are very strong advancements being made and this is where the action in sciences is taking place.”