Medical College of Wisconsin plans $43 million renovation of research facility

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The Medical College of Wisconsin is planning a $43 million renovation of the oldest research building on its Wauwatosa campus.

The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dr. John Raymond, president and chief executive officer of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said Tuesday the MCW board recently approved the project, which will include the renovation of four floors of the Basic Science Building.

The research facility is located just west of MCW’s main building at 8701 W. Watertown Plank Road and houses several departments, including microbiology and molecular genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology and toxicology.

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“The space will be refreshed and updated,” Raymond said in an interview Tuesday with BizTimes Milwaukee. “And, rather than having small inflexible labs, we’ll have an open laboratory configuration so we can support teams and flex up and down in size, depending on the number of people working on different projects.”

The project, which will be completed one floor at a time, is expected to be completed within the next three years.

Raymond said the project will be paired with an investment in new hires, as well as existing employees.

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“We’re going to invest in new recruitments and stabilizing supporting people who are already here,” he said.

The disclosure of the renovation plans comes on the heels of a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum that identified medical research, a core mission of MCW, as a critical funding challenge for the institution moving forward.

While MCW’s research and development expenditures make it the largest research institution in the metro Milwaukee area, its R&D spending has declined each year since 2011, the report said.

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MCW invests about $65 million to $70 million in research each year from internal funding sources, largely its clinical operations, and brings in about $160 million to $170 million of external funding annually. According to the report, federal funding flowing to MCW peaked in 2011 at $134 million, and then declined over the next three years before flattening out.

As federal funds tighten, more pressure is being placed on MCW’s clinical operations to help maintain its R&D investment.

“It is a challenge for us,” Raymond said. “To have something vitally important like the research enterprise, one of our core missions, it requires a chronic, substantial investment each and every year.”

MCW has encouraged more collaboration among faculty to increase their competitiveness for securing external funding, and has narrowed in on several R&D priority areas, he said.

“Many times people think you make a profit off of your research enterprise and that’s simply not the case,” Raymond said. “We actually run a very lean research enterprise here. We make good decisions, we monitor them well, we’re good stewards of the investments, but it still takes a 50 cents on the dollar investment to be able to have a research enterprise.”

According to a National Institutes of Health estimate, every $1 invested in biomedical research generates more than $2 in local economic growth. Raymond said MCW’s R&D expenditures, which totaled about $230 million last year, amounts to about a half-billion dollar impact on the region annually.

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