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WIMR II Grand Opening Celebrates 'Science Without Walls'

The Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR) has its roots in the belief that bringing together talented researchers - basic science, translational and clinical - from many disciplines to consider specific scientific themes will yield creative, unexpected and beneficial results.


The Neuron Project - an art installation sponsored by donors to benefit epilepsy research - illuminates the fifth-floor bridge between the two towers of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research.The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) is a pioneer in advancing this type of interdisciplinary investigation, and the first WIMR tower showcases its success.


The May 8, 2014, grand opening of the second great WIMR tower (WIMR II) provides basic scientists, clinical investigators and population health experts with state-of-the-art facilities, open laboratories and unprecedented opportunities to work together.


It is designed to enhance interdisciplinary biomedical research and to more quickly translate scientific discoveries into practical approaches to disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.


Working adjacent to UW Hospital and Clinics and the American Family Children’s Hospital, WIMR Tower II scientists can easily interact with clinicians and are within sight of the very patients whose lives they hope to improve.


“Integration gives a sense of urgency to research aimed at improving health care,” says Richard Moss, PhD, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies at the School of Medicine and Public Health.


Moss notes that, based on WIMR Tower I occupants’ feedback, planners improved upon the successful model. WIMR II features larger open laboratories and informal gathering areas, and more workstations for research staff and trainees.


Mark Wells, assistant dean for facilities at the School of Medicine and Public Health, explains that the WIMR II design uses space very efficiently, and researchers reduce duplication by sharing equipment and other resources.


Fulfilling the Wisconsin Idea


The building’s proximity to learners and teachers is another win-win situation, notes Robert Golden, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health.


WIMR II is connected to the Health Sciences Learning Center - home of the School of Medicine and Public Health - and is across from the UW Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing and the Waisman Center, supporting productive connections among students, clinicians and investigators who work to improve patients’ well-being.


UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Wisconsin Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Dean Robert Golden were on hand to cut the grand opening ribbon.“The entire WIMR complex, like the SMPH and UW-Madison, is built on a strong foundation that consists of three pillars: research, education and service - especially the service of clinical care. Each pillar adds strength to the others,” says Golden, adding that research focused on serving the health needs of our citizens is the most critical.


“Through the discoveries taking place in WIMR, along with the training of the next generation of scientists, we are fulfilling the true meaning of the Wisconsin Idea.”


Golden describes another aspect of WIMR that is not always visible to the naked eye: physical and conceptual bridges.


“Many ‘bridges’ connect this complex to cities and towns in Wisconsin and beyond. Because the discoveries taking place here will lead to new approaches to disease and prevention, they will touch the lives of those who are struggling with cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hereditary forms of blindness and more,” he notes.


“In addition, ‘bridges’ emanating from WIMR will connect scientific discovery to economic development throughout the region as we continue to unite our faculty’s powerful science with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s leadership in transforming discovery into new products and companies,” Golden describes.


Some occupants started moving into the nine-story WIMR II in December 2013 as floors were completed; others await their moves. Eventually, it will be home to 1,300 researchers. The following departments and centers now occupy WIMR II:

McArdle Laboratory’s recent move to WIMR II includes 18 laboratories from the Department of Oncology. It allows those researchers to work in close proximity with scientists at the UW Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) in WIMR I. The move fulfilled a plan to reunite McArdle and the UWCCC, which have always worked synergistically but had been separated physically since 1979.


The entire 700,000 square-foot WIMR complex cost approximately $315 million. WIMR II was supported by $67.4 million in state funding.


At the grand opening celebration, Golden thanked the many faculty and staff who worked to attain the successful National Institutes of Health construction grants, which totaled about $34 million; local partners, including UW Hospital and Clinics, UW Medical Foundation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; and “all of the wonderful private donors who helped make this possible through their support - large and small - and in all ways meaningful.”


The Art of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research


Look closely, and you'll note the word "cure" imprinted upon "research."The simple word ‘Cure’ imprinted upon ‘Research’ speaks volumes about the intentions of scientists whose laboratories are housed in the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR).


The donor recognition wall - recently added to the WIMR I atrium - shares this goal with guests and honors the many donors who believe in WIMR’s unique way of doing science.


Similarly, The Neuron Project symbolizes the project’s goal, “Connecting people, art and science and shining a light on the need for a cure for epilepsy.”


On the fifth floor, gracing the ceiling of the hallway between WIMR I and II, the metal and light art installation represents a network of neurons symbolizing the pathways of the brain.


Designed by Piper Vollmer, whose husband’s family is affected by epilepsy, the array is awash with ever-changing colors of pink, blue and lavender. Neurons bear the names of donors who share a passion with neuroscience researchers in WIMR.


Project originators Anne Morgan Giroux and David Giroux founded Lily’s Fund for Epilepsy Research to support and celebrate the cutting-edge investigations being done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their daughter, Lily, was diagnosed at age 2 with epilepsy.


The Neuron Project symbolizes the goal of “connecting people, art and science and shining a light on the need for a cure for epilepsy.”The organization underwrites research fellowships at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and its volunteers recently launched a grant program to spark innovative, early-stage research. The new Grace Grant is named for Verona, Wisconsin, teen Grace Penwell, who has a severe form of epilepsy.


Another artistic area within WIMR II is the Mandelbaum and Albert Family Vision Gallery. Located in the ninth-floor McPherson Eye Research Institute (ERI), this gallery aims to foster interactions between science and the visual arts.


It is named for the extended family that encompasses David and Nathan Mandelbaum, and Daniel Albert, MD, professor and chair-emeritus, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.


The Mandelbaums are founding supporters and Albert the founding director of the McPherson ERI, which is a multidisciplinary community of scholars working to gain knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to preventing blindness. Its name honors Alice McPherson, MD ’51, a retina pioneer, professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and an SMPH alumna.


The gallery’s first exhibit is “The Delighted Eye,” which features works from UW-Madison’s Tandem Press.


By Kris Whitman and Linda Dietrich

This article appears in the spring 2014 issue of Quarterly.

Date Published: 07/03/2014

News tag(s):  wimrquarterlyqcurrentfeaturesresearch

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WIMR II Grand Opening Celebrates 'Science Without Walls'

Last updated: 07/03/2014
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