• WisBusiness

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

 2:25 PM 

Institutes for Discovery aims to break down walls

By Mike Flaherty

SAN DIEGO -- John Morgridge, chairman of the board of Cisco Systems, and his wife Tashia, wanted to do something that put UW-Madison -- and Wisconsin -- "on the map'' of world scientific research.

That's exactly what they did. Their $50 million gift has now morphed into the new $150 Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an architectually unique scientific research center designed exclusively to bring scientists together to collaborate on research, a Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery leader said Wednesday at BIO 2008.

"This is easily the most exciting thing to happen to the university in a generation,'' said Laura Heisler of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, who spoke to a crowd at the Wisconsin pavilion on the convention floor. What is most interesting, she said, is that the entire project is based on collaboration.

When competed, the Institutes will have research capacity for 250 to 300 scientists, who will be working collaboratively to solve complex problems relating to human biology and regenerative medicine.

But what will be immediately compelling to visitors to the new Institutes is that the building itself is one of the keys to that collaboration.

The first floor will be open, with a restaurant, coffee shop, gardens and flexible meeting space. The three floors above it will be research space for scientists working for the private Morgridge Institute for Research on one side -- and a public research institute on the other.

But even the research space is wide open, she said, with scientists having a clear view of the rest of their floor. "If we need to put walls up for privacy, we can do that,'' Heisler said. But the idea is a floor plan that allows maximum contact and collaboration with fellow scientists.

It may be controversial when people see how the building is laid out, Heisler said. But she added that the Morgridge family granted money to "put us on the map'' of scientific research -- and this building "breaks down barriers between researchers'' to help do that.

The first phase of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is slated to open in the fall of 2010.

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