Gov. Jim Doyle announced a proposal Wednesday afternoon to construct a $375 million research institution on the University of Wisconsin campus called the “Wisconsin Institution for Discovery.”
The facility would include specialists in biochemistry, nanotechnology, computer engineering and bioinformatics, which would ease collaboration between scientists of different backgrounds, Doyle said during the press conference.
According to UW Chancellor John Wiley, the facility would occupy the entire block between University Avenue, West Johnson and North Charter streets and North Randall Avenue.
“We are replacing one of the ugliest blocks on campus,” Wiley said during the conference.
The Psychology Department will likely be moved to Sterling Hall. The UW Physical Plant would be relocated to the space Lot 51 currently occupies.
Wiley said a “complicated set of dominos … need to be moved around.”
Doyle said the institution is important so UW’s world-leading researchers have the facilities, equipment and resources they need to do their work. He added the institution would make it easier for researchers and scientists to convert discoveries into start-up businesses.
“By removing these bureaucratic hurdles we will ensure that those UW faculty members who want to become entrepreneurs can engage in both research and start-up businesses,” Doyle said.
Dr. Jeff Johnson of UW has discovered a protein that halts the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease in mice and is researching how to apply his discoveries to humans, according to Doyle.
“We are going to invest $1.5 million annually on Alzheimer’s research to build on extraordinary scientists like the University of Wisconsin’s Jeff Johnson,” Doyle said.
Doyle said the use of public and private funding would be a big part of the institution to pursue “ground-breaking” stem cell research.
“We will marshal the resources in the private sector, not just the public money,” he said.
Doyle’s announcement Wednesday answered lingering questions concerning Wisconsin’s response to a recent referendum passed by California giving the state billions of dollars in public funding for stem-cell research.
“We are at the forefront of stem-cell research,” Doyle said. “Stem-cell research is absolutely essential to the efforts we are making.”
Doyle added Wisconsin also supports a broad range of research into regenerative cures outside the realm of stem-cell research.
UW has invested nearly one billion dollars in high technology facilities in the last 15 years, both Wiley and Doyle said.
“UW-Madison, in particular, is a leader in biochemistry, genomics, nanotechnology and information technology,” Doyle said.
Doyle said California is trying to attain Wisconsin’s status as the nation’s leader in stem-cell research.
“Wisconsin can’t match California dollar-for-dollar, but California can’t match Wisconsin for what we already have, including the best scientists in the world and first-class research institutions,” he said.
Doyle added Wisconsin is already ahead of California in many aspects of stem cell-research and the state will only “deepen investments we have already made.”
Matt Sande, the legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the organization wants to ensure the argument about stem-cell research does not shift from moral to economic considerations because of competition with California, Massachusetts and Korea.
“Pro-Life Wisconsin is pro-research as long as it is done ethically,” Sande said.
Sande said it is possible for the state to be a leader in biotechnology and bioethics at the same time. However, he added the state deserves to have an assurance of moral research from their elected officials.
“There is a line that society must not cross and killing babies crosses that line,” Sande said.
Doyle downplayed any notions of competition with California and said their referendum helps both states.
“This is not competition where someone wins and someone loses,” Doyle said. “[Everybody] hopes that major breakthroughs come for curing illnesses … If they come from California, if they come from Arkansas or they come from Wisconsin it is going to be great for all of the people of this state.”