IRCAD, a French research and training institute for the world’s finest surgeons, has designated Charlotte’s new innovation district, “The Pearl,” as its first choice to establish its North American headquarters. The institute would anchor the first research building in the soon-to-be-constructed The Pearl innovation district, along with the forthcoming campus of Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Charlotte.
Located in midtown Charlotte, Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Charlotte and The Pearl innovation district are expected to break ground in mid- to late-2022. The Pearl will be a mixed-use development featuring education, retail, apartments, a hotel and an open community space, in addition to being ground-zero for entrepreneurial activity, research and development that is expected to reshape the economy of the Charlotte region. Over the next 15 years, it is projected to create more than 5,500 onsite jobs and more than 11,500 jobs, in total, in the Charlotte region.
IRCAD is an acronym for Institut de Recherche contre les Cancers de l’Appareil Digestif (Institute for Research into Cancer of the Digestive System). When fully operational, IRCAD North America is expected to attract thousands of medical professionals to Charlotte each year to train and collaborate in the latest surgical techniques, including robotics, medical virtual and augmented reality, surgical artificial intelligence and simulation training. The new IRCAD North America headquarters could open as soon as 2025.
“When Atrium Health first announced its commitment to build an innovation district in Charlotte, we could only dream that we would be able to secure an anchor tenant with the reputation – and more importantly, the impact – of IRCAD,” said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Charlotte-based Atrium Health. “We envision IRCAD being a ‘super magnet,’ attracting businesses, physicians and surgeons to train and collaborate in the latest surgical techniques, including: robotics, medical virtual and augmented reality, surgical artificial intelligence and simulation training.
“IRCAD will also help bring together educators, learners, physicians, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to The Pearl,” he continued. “Without question, in combination with the Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem, the state of North Carolina will be the epicenter for global health innovation, education and research.”
IRCAD specializes in educating physicians from around the world in minimally invasive surgery techniques. It also features fundamental research laboratories and research and development units in computer science and robotics that design and develop tools for diagnosis, surgical planning and simulation aimed at improving and making surgical procedures safer. IRCAD opened on the grounds of the University Hospital of Strasbourg, France in 1994, and has expanded to six training centers in five countries, but the Charlotte center would be the first in North America.
“We have been looking for the right North American partner for some time,” said Professor Jacques Marescaux, a surgeon and the president and founder of IRCAD. “We weighed opportunities with some of the most prominent names in academic medicine but, for us, aligning with the rising star of Atrium Health and its renowned clinical excellence is the perfect fit. Having the opportunity to become part of the new innovation district and its proximity to Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Charlotte, in its formative stages, will allow us to grow and excel together as we train the world’s best surgeons with the latest technology, innovations and techniques.”
Atrium Health and IRCAD are working together to create a public-private partnership to help underwrite the start-up costs needed to ensure the training center can be built to the exacting standards and with the appropriate technology to deliver the highly specialized training. Financial and technology commitments have already been secured from life science technology firms, and discussions are continuing with donors, corporate interests and government leaders to secure additional funding.
“It’s important to acknowledge that the innovation district would not be possible without the public-private partnerships and support we have forged with our city and county government leaders,” explained Woods. “Yet, we will still need additional, significant financial commitments from both the public and private sectors to make this vision a reality. We look forward to working with others who see the value in this unique opportunity to bring an industry-leading international headquarters to North Carolina and add to its already impressive portfolio of life sciences and health sciences companies here in the state.”
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