MDI Biological Laboratory
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MDI Bio Lab builds housing to keep up with growing staff, student numbers

Since the start of the pandemic, MDI Biological Laboratory has been growing enrollment in its graduate programs and growing its staffing, too.

“The MDI Bio Lab is rapidly evolving,” Hermann Haller, the lab’s president, said in the nonprofit’s 2023 impact report.

Haller said 2023 was a milestone year for the nonprofit biomedical research and training institute in Bar Harbor.

Enrollments in year-round graduate programs reached 24 students, the highest ever and up from nine in pre-pandemic years and from 19 by the end of 2022.

aerial of buildings and trees on peninsula with water

Activities on the 100-acre campus of MDI Bio Lab have increased since the pandemic

Staff levels also rose to a high of 134, compared with 113 in 2022.

The influx of students has led to new challenges — the need for better housing, more infrastructure and a robust training curriculum.

“In order to accommodate our growing residential population of students and visiting scientists, we have renovated and winterized seven cottages and constructed a new student housing unit with five spacious suites — and most important, according to the students — a large laundry facility,” Haller said.

The first student cohort moved into the new building, at 160 Old Bar Harbor Road, earlier this month.

Situated on a campus of more than 100 acres in the Bar Harbor village of Salsbury Cove, MDI Bio Lab and its international faculty focus on the science of aging and regeneration.

yellow building with ramp and sandy ground

More students and staff prompted construction of new housing.

In 2023, the lab received new federal research awards totaling $7.5 million and the institute’s budget grew from 2022’s $15 million to $16 million.

Rapidly evolving work

The lab’s work is supported by federal research awards and philanthropic supporters, including foundations and individuals.

“The MDI Bio Lab is rapidly evolving, as we maximize our capacity for cutting-edge research and for training the biomedical workforce of the future,” said Haller.

The plan is to grow the number of research groups as well. By the end of the decade, the lab aims to host 15 research groups and employ 150 people, according to a news release.

The lab also plans to expand the training opportunities it provides, which include summer fellowships for high school and college students.

MDI Bio Lab leads the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, or INBRE, a collaborative network of Maine educational and research institutions. The network has 14 research and higher-education institutions that share faculty and infrastructure to train and support young scientists.

Funded by $87 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Maine INBRE has provided hands-on research experience for two decades to more than 2,600 undergraduates. Ninety percent of them have pursued further training and careers in science and medicine.

“For more than 125 years MDI Bio Lab’s investigators have worked at the cutting-edge of biomedical science to understand and improve human health,” Haller said. “Now we are expanding our commitment to training Maine’s next generation of science leaders.”

For the full report, click here.

By Laurie Schreiber

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