New Era of Research for Cancer Center

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Wisconsin Institutes for Medical ResearchMADISON-The University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center entered a new era of biomedical research with the September 4 grand opening of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research's (WIMR) first tower.


The eight-floor, $189 million East Tower is phase one of what will ultimately be three towers connected by a shared base. WIMR is a UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) facility designed to encourage scientific collaboration. It brings together basic science and clinical researchers from across the UW campus to address complex healthcare problems and to speed the transfer of science to the people who will benefit from it.


"The work that takes place in this building will translate into every nook and cranny of the state, truly embodying the Wisconsin Idea," said Robert Golden, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health.


Research floors, each running the length of a football field, are barrier-free so scientists working at their laboratory benches can be aware of what's happening at the next. Offices are clustered close to the benches; equipment is strategically placed for sharing. Investigators working on separate floors will also congregate in common areas that extend through two floors and are joined by expansive stairways.


UW Carbone Cancer Center researchers will be working in labs on multiple floors, and, as the other towers are built, will become the sole occupants of the East Tower. The entire three-tower complex is expected to be complete in 2015.


The East Tower also houses UW Carbone Cancer Center's administrative offices. They will share the top floor of the seven-story tower with prostate cancer researchers. Breast cancer researchers will work in the sixth floor; funding for prostate and breast cancer research space came from two, $7 million federal grants.


In recent weeks, WIMR obtained $2.5 million in support from the state of Wisconsin. When paired with matching SMPH money, the funds will help finish floors three and four for researchers working on lung, pediatric, head and neck, and hematologic cancer.


The two WIMR imaging science floors facilitate translational research, which moves quickly from bench to bedside, in a most efficient way. The first floor, dedicated to radiology, will be the new home of the UW Hospital and Clinics outpatient radiotherapy unit, where multiple forms of diagnostic and treatment services will be provided.


Current East Tower Occupants

  • Seventh Floor: Prostate cancer, UW Carbone Cancer Center administrative offices
  • Sixth Floor: Breast cancer
  • Fifth Floor: Surgery, orthopedic surgery, pharmacology
  • Fourth Floor: Hematologic and pediatric oncology (completed in the future)
  • Third Floor: Lung and other cancers (completed in the future) 
  • Second Floor: Core laboratory resources, mechanicals
  • First Floor/Lower Level: Advanced imaging and radiation

Paul DeLuca, SMPH associate dean for research and graduate studies, says WIMR meets a long-standing need on campus.


"This really started back in the early 1990s, when we realized that we had to structure our research environment differently to facilitate research," he said.


The state gave permission for a unique arrangement that allowed the school to "shell out" the building, then finish floors as funding became available. DeLuca says the arrangement "allowed us to build as fast as the funding flowed."


The East Tower incorporates art with the sciences. The sail-like window wall is studded with metallic "sparkle strips," and its subtle linear grid represents the underpinnings for tomotherapy, the cancer treatment invented by SMPH researchers. Inside, there's a hanging aluminum sculpture by artist Cliff Garten, which extends through floors seven through three. Its twisting spirals suggest movement, interaction, aspiration and inspiration common to the underlying DNA fiber controlling all life.


And outdoors, the new "Healing Garden" marks the place where the research tower, the hospital and the learning center come together, symbolizing the translational nature of the complex.


Date Published: 09/10/2008

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