An artificial intelligence-using drug company will assume former Dick’s storefront — and its climbing wall — at The Gateway

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune The multi-story building that used to house Dick's Sporting Goods at The Gateway will be transformed into offices for Recursion Pharmaceuticals, a Salt Lake City company looking for cures to unusual diseases.

Vestar is adding a biotech company to The Gateway’s mixed-use lifestyle and entertainment district in Salt Lake City’s western downtown area.

The mall-owning real estate company said Thursday that Recursion Pharmaceuticals Inc., which has been working in University of Utah’s Research Park for the past four years, will move into the multistory space previously occupied by Dick’s Sporting Goods.

The store’s climbing wall will remain.

“The wall was one element of the space we loved when we saw it,” said Recursion CEO Chris Gibson. He said employees will make the initial move and that the company, which uses artificial intelligence to make drug discoveries, intends to have 300 there eventually. Most will be biologists, data scientists, software engineers and other biotechnology professionals.

“We are an outdoorsy and active company, so having the wall available to our employees seemed like a great bonus,” Gibson added. “We’ve worked closely with our architects at Method Studios to integrate the wall into our new office and laboratories.”

Jenny Cushing, Vestar’s vice president of leasing, said one-third of Recursion’s new footprint will be lab space, which will contain advanced robotics. The rest will be office and “collaboration space,” she added.

Cushing said the pharmaceutical company anticipates that its spring arrival will fit well into Vestar’s plans to reinvigorate the open-air mall, which was thriving when Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics but suffered after the Great Recession and the opening of the nearby City Creek Center in 2012.

“This new phase of The Gateway is all about making room for creativity, vision and culture,” Cushing added. “Recursion represents every aspect of that. We can’t wait to see all the medical innovations they discover at their new home.”

Recursion’s goal is to find 100 new treatments for disease by 2025. Two diseases currently targeted by its research are cerebral cavernous malformation, which leads to strokes, and neurofibromatosis type 2, in which patients get recurrent tumors in their central nervous systems.

“Thousands of rare diseases like these, while uncommon individually, together affect about 1 in 10 Americans — and the majority have no treatment,” Gibson noted. “This is an area we feel great about working in.”

In early October, Recursion announced that it had raised $60 million from investors, led by a San Francisco-based venture capital fund called Data Collective, to develop “the world’s largest biological image dataset.” That investment boosted Recursion’s fundraising total to $80 million, money being used to add 2 million images and 20 terabytes of data weekly to the database, which models thousands of diseases found in human cells.

The mall offered a mixture of attributes Recursion believes will entice talented employees to come to Salt Lake City, said Britt McPartland, the company’s human resources director.

“We wanted to locate our company in a place that is fun and convenient for our current and future employees, in walking distance of the best food, events and nightlife Utah has to offer,” he added, hailing the site’s proximity to mass transit. “For our many employees who choose downtown urban living, our new location will be incredibly convenient. “