Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center, participates Wednesday in the groundbreaking...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center, participates Wednesday in the groundbreaking for the new Medical and Research Translation Building at Stony Brook University Medical Center. (Nov. 13, 2013) Credit: Johnny Milano

A cure for cancer could happen because of a chance encounter in the hall.

That's the idea behind Stony Brook University's $194 million Medical and Research Translation building, to be built in the next two years next to the hospital and health sciences towers.

"The best ideas come where you don't expect them," said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the school of medicine, who spoke at the groundbreaking Wednesday for the 245,000-square-foot, eight-story building that will be known as MART.

Kaushansky said MART will bring together in one building scientists, clinical researchers and doctors to focus on treating and finding cures for cancer. Scientists and clinicians will be able to bump into each other for a casual conversation that could lead, one day, to a breakthrough, he said.

"MART is designed to foster those conversations," he said.

Kaushansky said cancer was chosen because the university already does $11 million in cancer research -- what he called "a nascent critical mass." By focusing on one area, the hope is to attract more top-level researchers, he said.

MART will house state-of-the-art imaging, including a PET/CT scanner, and informatics to analyze data. Twelve new classrooms will be added, along with a 300-seat auditorium.

In addition, the university is building a $240 million, 10-story hospital pavilion. A total of 150 beds are slated for the tower, 50 of them for Stony Brook's children's hospital. Construction for that also will start within the next few months and be completed about the same time as MART, said the hospital's chief executive, Dr. Reuven Pasternak.

University president Dr. Samuel Stanley said the projects would create 4,200 construction jobs and lead to the hiring of 267 new faculty members.

Unlike many universities, "we're in growth mode," Stanley said. He attributed much of that to the generosity of Marilyn and Jim Simons, former Stony Brook mathematics department chairman and founder of the investment firm Renaissance Technologies.

Financing for the projects comes in part from a $35 million state challenge grant and $50 million from the Simonses, part of $150 million the couple gave to the university last year.

The Simonses "catalyzed things in so many ways," Stanley said. He said the university had 1,000 new donors because of them.

Jim Simons was equally laudatory of Stanley. He told the standing-room crowd in a heated tent that the couple would not have been so generous if it hadn't been for Stanley's "transformative" leadership.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, on campus for a Long Island Regional Economic Development Council event, joined in the groundbreaking. He did not speak at the ceremony.

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