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WisconsinEye Webcast: WARF Director Says Institutes for Discovery Risky, But Worth the Gamble

The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery are a risky endeavor, Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, acknowledged during a recent Wisconsin Innovation Network luncheon.

But they are worth the gamble because they hold the potential to produce breakthrough science that can improve lives and create new companies and jobs for Wisconsin.

“The centers also will strengthen UW-Madison,” said Gulbrandsen, who spoke to a packed house. WARF manages the patents for the university and is contributing $50 million for the institutes.

Gulbrandsen said the institutes are needed to leverage research grants from industry and the federal government because the competition with other top universities for funding is increasing. Gulbrandsen said the Morgridge institute will be more nimble, have less bureaucracy and allow easier transfer of technology to private industry. In addition, because it will be funded with private dollars, Morgridge scientists will be able to work on unregistered stem cell lines.

In response to a question, Gulbrandsen said he hopes the institutes will be able to attract the “best minds in science” and compete with international research powerhouses like Singapore, which is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into stem cell programs.

“If we do this right, the brightest scientists will want to be here,” he said.

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