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Badgerland presence at BIO 2006

April 6, 2006 By Brian Mattmiller

Following Monday’s blockbuster announcement of a $150 million public-private investment in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will have considerable momentum as it vies for attention at BIO 2006 this weekend in Chicago.

BIO 2006, to be held April 9-13, is the world’s largest conference devoted to the bustling intersection between commerce and the biosciences. UW–Madison is planning a major presence at the event, including exhibition space that will outline the depth and breadth of biotechnology on campus and statewide. Gov. Jim Doyle will lead a sizable delegation from Wisconsin to the conference.

Included in UW–Madison plans will be visits from stem cell research pioneer James Thomson and developmental biologist Gabriela Cezar, also a member of UW–Madison’s team of stem cell scientists. Cezar will give remarks on Monday (April 10) at 4 p.m. at the Wisconsin Pavilion and again at 7 p.m. Monday at the Governor’s reception at the John Hancock Building.

The past year has been remarkable for UW–Madison in terms of major developments in the biosciences. The Office of Corporate Relations has developed a Web site exploring the present and future of Wisconsin biosciences. Here are some additional highlights that could factor into Wisconsin-related coverage of BIO 2006:

  • The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID): This landmark project, which just received $100 million in private gift support and a $50 million commitment from the state, will significantly enhance the technology transfer capacity of UW–Madison. The building will bring together both public and private sector interests to increase the pace of capitalizing on major research discoveries. The institutes will combine scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines to attack the problems of disease, advance regenerative medicine and solve other important problems.
  • The National Stem Cell Bank: In October 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected UW–Madison’s WiCell Research Institute as the site of the federal government’s first and only National Stem Cell Bank. This site serves the nationwide community of embryonic stem cell researchers through both the characterization and distribution of stem cell lines.
  • The Wisconsin Influenza Research Institute: In February 2006, UW–Madison unveiled plans to build a $9 million influenza research institute that will bolster the university’s world leadership on flu virus research. Led by virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, UW–Madison has produced a series of groundbreaking advances on the viral machinery of influenza, including 2006 advances on how viruses replicate and how bird flu spreads to humans.
  • Cluster Hiring in the Biosciences: About seven years ago, UW–Madison embarked on a radically different approach to faculty hiring that was built on fostering interdisciplinary connections on emerging topics that cross the boundaries of traditional academic departments. With support from the Wisconsin Legislature, the university was able to assemble 49 “cluster-hiring” initiatives employing this new approach.

    The effort was especially fruitful in the biosciences, which had already experienced extensive crosswiring between the fields of biology, engineering, computer science, physics and medicine. About 20 clusters have a biosciences link, including innovative programs in symbiosis, advance materials development and computational systems biology. While a number of universities are just now embarking on interdisciplinary hiring campaigns, UW–Madison can already point to significant outcomes.