By Tracey O’Shaughnessy Republican-American
NEW HAVEN — Yale New Haven Health broke ground Wednesday on the $838 million, 505,000-square-foot Adams Neuroscience Center, the largest health care construction project of its kind in the state.
The center, expected to open in 2027, will focus on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, head trauma, multiple sclerosis, spinal disorders and stroke.
The center, on Yale’s St. Raphael’s campus, is named after major donors Stephen and Denise Adams. Stephen Adams has suffered from Parkinson’s for 18 years, his wife said. When asked what specific Parkinson’s research on which she would like the new center to focus, she said, “A cure.”
Christopher O’Connor, president and CEO of Yale New Haven Health, predicted the Adams site will be “one of the most advanced neuroscience centers in the United States.”
The center will feature 214 inpatient beds distributed in two towers – one adjacent to Sherman Avenue and one on the existing McGivney Center on George Street. Both towers will be connected through a podium that will house a new entrance and main lobby. The project will require the demolition of three existing buildings on George Street. Yale New Haven Health officials said the project will create 400 construction jobs as well as additional hospital staff jobs.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said it would be a “game changer” for the city.
“It’s transformational,” he said. “The investment in the city of New Haven solidifies the hospital’s national standing in patient care as a destination hospital.”
The project is about 100,000 square feet larger than Smilow Cancer Center, which opened in 2009. Hospital officials struggled to name a commensurate center in the tri-state area. Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute Movement Disorders Center in Cheshire, which treats similar conditions, is far smaller at 50,000 square feet.
Hospital officials said the Adams Center will feature enhanced specialty care for epilepsy and seizures; autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis; spinal disorders and neurovascular conditions, like stroke, in which blood flow in part of the brain has been affected by narrowing, clot formation, blockage or hemorrhage.
The new center will offer clinical trials in brain monitoring, imaging and minimally invasive brain interventions, such as deep brain stimulation. This procedure uses implanted electrodes and electrical stimulation to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson’s, which affects nearly 1 million people in the U.S.
The procedure interrupts the irregular brain signals that cause tremors, said Dr. Murat Gunel, chief of neurosurgery at Yale New Haven Health. Gunel said he expects the center to focus in particular on the molecular genetics and biology of neurovascular conditions like stroke, particularly those in which patients are not helped by traditional means and suffer continued neurological deficits.
The center also will focus on what is considered to be the “next generation” of neuroscience care, brain-machine interface or brain-computer interface, Gunel said. Such care involves devices that collect brain signals, analyzes them and translates them into commands sent to a device, such as a prosthetic arm or leg. Such prosthetics typically are employed in people who have lost function in a part or parts of their body because of conditions such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The late Bob Veillette of Naugatuck was a participant in research involving such devices. Paralyzed and mute, he was able to move a robotic arm by thinking about it. Veillette died in September 2017.
More than 600 neurological conditions exist and their numbers are increasing as the U.S. population ages, said Keith Churchill, president of Yale New Haven Hospital.
“This is a rapidly growing field and treatments are rapidly developing,” he said.
Dr. Nancy J. Brown, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, said, “I am thrilled that this center will enable us to make cutting-edge treatments available to Yale-New Haven patients. Yale is a world leader in neuroscience research, and discovery can happen at the bedside.”