Yale University’s recent purchase of the 136-acre Bayer HealthCare campus in the municipalities of West Haven and Orange, Conn., offers the School of Medicine an unprecedented opportunity to expand and quicken the pace of its biomedical research programs, school officials say.

Yale President Richard C. Levin announced the acquisition, which includes 550,000 square feet of laboratory space, on June 13.

“Yale is already in the midst of a boom in the expansion of its science and medical facilities,” said Levin. “The addition of this ready-made, state-of-the-art research space will allow that growth to accelerate at an unprecedented level—potentially making it possible for Yale scientists to develop new discoveries, inventions and cures years earlier. The availability of Bayer’s science laboratories will enable us to undertake research programs that we would not have had space to develop for a decade or more.”

School of Medicine Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., says plans for how to use the space are not finalized, but the medical school will be a major participant. “There are programs we would really like to grow in which growth has been limited by space,” he says.

However, Alpern also says he could envision the new campus as a place for other parts of the university to converge with the medical school. “It would be terrific if we could also have faculty from the other side of campus over there,” he says. “It could act as a meeting space to bring together different parts of the university.”

George Zdru, director of the Yale School of Medicine Capital Program, manages lab and office space at the medical school. “Up until now, planning has always been constrained by lack of space,” he says, “and the planning process was almost like a game of checkers, requiring the movement of a lot of people to get to the endpoint. Now it can become something a little more elegant, allowing us to think of planning more holistically.”

Zdru says that the Bayer campus adds both flexibility and immediacy to the planning process.

“When you build a project, it’s usually a five-year process from the initial ideas until the time you can actually use the space,” says Zdru. “These particular laboratories are designed in a flexible, universal manner that should make it very easy to occupy them without much renovation. It’s a good package.”

In addition to lab space, the Bayer complex includes office buildings and warehouses, which may be used as storage space for the Yale University Art Gallery and the Peabody Museum of Natural History.

The financial details of acquiring the 136-acre campus will be disclosed at the time of closing.

While Bayer is not planning to vacate all the office buildings and warehouses until 2008, Alpern says that lab space is already available and that Yale programs could begin relocating as early as the fall.

The purchase of the Bayer HealthCare complex is the largest space acquisition in the university’s history, says Alpern, and the purchase complements other recent building initiatives at Yale.

The 457,000-square-foot Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education, which opened in 2003, is Yale’s largest building. The Amistad Building, which will officially open this fall, will house laboratories for interdepartmental programs in stem cell biology, human translational immunology and vascular biology and transplantation. President Levin also emphasized that the acquisition of the Bayer campus will not affect plans to build more than 2 million square feet of new Yale facilities in New Haven over the next six years, and that the heart of the campus will remain in the city.

In addition to payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) funds that the state of Connecticut will provide to the city of West Haven and town of Orange, Yale has agreed to make additional voluntary payments to the municipalities proportional to the voluntary payments the university now makes to the city of New Haven.

Yale will also invest $1 million over the next three to four years to enhance science education in the Greater New Haven area.