Morgridge Institute for Research

Morgridge Institute for Research

The Morgridge Institute for Research is a private, nonprofit biomedical research institute in Madison, Wis., affiliated with the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Research in disciplines including regenerative biology, virology, medical devices, pharmaceutical informatics and education is currently underway as the institute’s home in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery nears completion in December 2010.

Made possible with a $50 million gift from Tashia and John Morgridge as well as support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the state of Wisconsin, the Morgridge Institute for Research works to deliver scientific discoveries to the public to improve human health and well-being.

The interdisciplinary science at The Morgridge Institute for Research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and other public and private sources. Relationships with industry[1] and private investors leverage this funding to speed the commercial development of research results.

The Morgridge Institute for Research is led by Executive Director Sangtae “Sang” Kim, a former chairman of UW–Madison’s chemical engineering department who previously served as the Donald W. Feddersen Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering at Purdue University. Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, serves as chairman of the institute.

The Morgridge Institute for Research is one of three entities occupying the $150 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building; the other entities include a public research enterprise known as the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and the Town Center, which functions to encourage interaction among scientists and community members and hosts events and educational programs.[2] The entire project is designed to achieve silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program and is expected to use 50 percent less energy and water than a typical laboratory.[3]



Conceived by the Morgridges in 2005 to provide greater flexibility to scientists working in interdisciplinary fields such as regenerative biology, the Morgridge Institute for Research secured matching funds from the state of Wisconsin and WARF, the patent and licensing organization for UW–Madison.

The Morgridges' gift, announced in April 2006,[4] represented the single largest private donation in university history. A former CEO and chairman of Cisco Systems, John Morgridge and wife Tashia, a retired special education teacher, met in high school in Wauwatosa and graduated from UW–Madison in 1955.

Previous philanthropic gifts by the Morgridges to UW–Madison included a 2004 gift of $31 million to renovate and modernize the Education Building,[5] as well as gifts to the School of Business and the College of Engineering. Their vision for the Morgridge Institute for Research included development of educational programs that would allow the public to engage with scientific topics such as human embryonic stem cells.

The institute allows university faculty to hold dual appointments in both traditional academic settings and the private center. A desire for greater collaboration with industry and better support for faculty startup companies factored into the mission of “discovery to delivery.’’

Scientific Leadership

Research activities at the Morgridge Institute are driven by the work of scientific directors in regenerative biology; virology; medical devices; pharmaceutical informatics; and education research. These challenge areas build on core research strengths at UW–Madison and are supported by the university's expertise in high throughput computing. The scientific challenge areas were chosen for their potential to advance basic science and their promise of delivering new technologies to improve human health.[6]

Researchers leading the challenge areas and programs at the Morgridge Institute for Research include:

  • James Thomson, director of regenerative biology. Thomson, the first to derive human embryonic stem cells in 1998,[7] directs regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research. His current research focuses on cellular reprogramming and techniques to optimize differentiation. Thomson holds a joint appointment as an anatomy professor at UW-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health.
  • Paul Ahlquist, director of virology. In addition to directing the virology program, Ahlquist holds appointments as a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, and as a UW–Madison professor of oncology at the School of Medicine and Public Health, molecular virology in the Graduate School and plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. His current work focuses on improving understanding, prevention and treatment of viruses and their diseases.
  • Thomas "Rock" Mackie, director of medical devices.,[8] who directs the medical device program, is a UW–Madison professor of medical physics and human oncology at the School of Medicine and Public Health and nuclear, engineering physics and biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering. He also is the chairman and co-founder of TomoTherapy. Mackie's work focuses on translational research including better ways to move potential new medical devices through regulatory approval and more effectively treat patients.
  • Sangtae "Sang" Kim, executive director of the Morgridge Institute for Research and director of pharmaceutical informatics. In addition to Kim's oversight role,[9] he will serve as principal investigator for the pharmaceutical informatics area. Kim previously held senior management roles at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research and the Lilly Research Laboratories and lead the predecessor of the National Science Foundation's Office of Cyberinfrastructure.
  • Susan Millar, director of education research. Millar is an anthropologist and senior scientist in the UW–Madison Wisconsin Center for Education Research. She is leading a team in the development of online interactive computer games and other resources designed to help youth and adults learn core science and engineering concepts in the biomedical disciplines. Millar’s appointment spans both the Morgridge Institute for Research and its public twin, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.
  • Miron Livny, chief technology officer and director of core computational technology. Livny, a UW–Madison professor of computer sciences in the College of Letters and Science and director of UW–Madison's Center for High Throughput Computing, leads core computational technology including development of advanced computing infrastructure. Livny, creator of the Condor High-Throughput Computing System, serves both the Morgridge Institute for Research and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.
  • Nirupama "Rupa" Shevde, director of outreach experiences. Shevde is a senior scientist at the WiCell Research Institute and a UW–Madison honorary associate in biochemistry at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She leads a series of scientific learning programs for youth[10] and the general public.


Set to open in December 2010, the Morgridge Institute for Research will be housed in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) building that is the first UW–Madison research facility designed to achieve LEED silver certification for green building practices.[11] The project surpassed its initial goals for recycling 80 percent of construction waste[12] by processing 92 percent of the demolition and excess construction materials for reuse.[3]

A terra cotta tile system covering the building's exterior uses the clay stone's natural airtight properties to resist heat and moisture. Behind the 5-foot (1.5 m) clay tiles, which are supported on aluminum framing, a mineral fiber insulating membrane made from 90 percent recycled material provides additional buffering from heat and cold.

Other environmentally friendly features of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery include a geothermal well system, solar hot-water heating, gray water use for irrigation and the use of high efficiency lighting, water flow fixtures and HVAC systems throughout. The facility is designed by Ballinger and Uihlein Wilson Architects and constructed by Findorff Mortenson[13] Building residents, visitors to the Town Center and remote observers will be able to view real-time energy use and performance metrics for the building via their computers, public monitors and the institutes' website.


  1. ^ “Morgridge Institute Receives Gift of Building.’’ The Business Journal of Milwaukee. American City Business Journals. March 3, 2010. Retrieved on March 15, 2010.
  2. ^ "The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery." Pharmaceutical 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on Track for December 2010 Opening." University of Wisconsin–Madison University Communications. Dec. 14, 2009. Retrieved July 23, 2010..
  4. ^ "Morgridge Gift Enables Phase One of Institute for Discovery." Wisconsin Technology Network News. April 3, 2006. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  5. ^ "Gift to Fund Education Building Renovation, Addition." University of Wisconsin–Madison University Communications. May 19, 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  6. ^ "Morgridge Institute for Research Announces Scientific Leadership Team, Research Areas." University of Wisconsin–Madison University Communications. Feb. 10, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  7. ^ "TR10: Engineered Stem Cells, Mimicking human disease in a dish." Emily Singer. Technology Review Published by MIT. May/June 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  8. ^ Mackie
  9. ^ "Morgridge Institute Names Director" The Business Journal of Milwaukee (American City Business Journals Inc.). September 12, 2008. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  10. ^ "At This Camp, Science Rules." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. July 16, 2010. Retrieved on July 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "Gov. Doyle announces opening of Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery." Office of Gov. Jim Doyle. May 4, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  12. ^ "WID/MIR Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Building Concept Program." Uihlein Wilson Ballinger. Page 24. May 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  13. ^ "Mortenson-Findorff Joint Venture Team Chosen for University of Wisconsin-Madison Project." Mortenson Construction News Archive. Jan. 24, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2010..

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