Last updated on April 27th, 2023 at 10:01 pm
Milwaukee-based Versiti, a nonprofit organization specializing in blood health solutions, is planning a $63.5 million, 60,000-square-foot expansion of its Blood Research Institute in Wauwatosa.
The VBRI currently has about 90,000 square feet of space on Watertown Plank Road. A $10 million grant, earmarked within Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023-25 budget proposal, would act as a catalyst for the expansion project, according to Chris Miskel, president and chief executive officer of Versiti.
The funding proposal will be reviewed by both houses of the state Legislature.
“The proposed expansion would promote the discovery of life-saving therapies at our institute,” said Miskel.
Over the next 30 years, Versiti projects the expansion project will have a total economic impact of $580 million and drive additional state tax revenue of $19 million for the state. A key component of the additional tax revenue will be the people who don’t live within the state but move to come take a job at Versiti. The expansion is expected to create 100 jobs, ranging from additional VBRI researchers to the construction workers that would build the addition.
“We are nearing capacity,” said Miskel. “With the recruitment of a couple more (health care) investigators over the next couple of months, it would be the trigger for us to do the expansion, which we would envision happening over the next couple of years.”
The nonprofit’s research has historically been focused on bleeding and clotting disorders. The expansion would allow Versiti to expand its research into the areas of blood cancer, immunobiology and stem cell work.
In addition to running the Blood Research Institute, Versiti supplies blood to every hospital in southeastern Wisconsin and completes highly specialized diagnostic testing for physicians across the county. The nonprofit also helps coordinate organ and tissue donations.
Versiti hopes to break ground on the expansion either by the end of this year or early 2024. The timeline is contingent on the nonprofit hiring an additional three investigators, which will officially put Versiti at capacity and start the expansion process. There is already an active recruitment process underway, according to Miskel.
The remaining $53.5 million needed for the expansion will come from a mix of fundraising efforts, borrowing and Versiti’s own proceeds.
“We really see the $10 million (in state funds) as a catalyst that will help drive philanthropy and awareness,” said Miskel.
Work conducted at VBRI has led to several life-saving discoveries, including the technology that enabled organ transplantation between unrelated individuals, which significantly increased organ transplant opportunities nationwide.
VBRI also conducted research for the Department of Defense on treating soldiers who suffer hemorrhages on the battlefield using various therapeutics, including hemostatic powders, innovative gauzes, and transfusable platelets/blood clotting agents.
“There are only three or four blood center doing blood research and our legacy and reputations is right at the top based on some of the discoveries that have occurred over the years,” said Miskel.
Versiti has over 2,000 employees at its locations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.