Marquette, MCW partnership to boost state’s life sciences industry

A new academic partnership in Milwaukee will boost the state’s efforts to better promote the life sciences industry, says BioFoward CEO Lisa Johnson.

The partnership, between Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin, will create a joint department of biomedical engineering starting in July. It brings together Marquette’s engineering expertise with MCW’s broad network of clinics and medical researchers.

“I think it’s great,” Johnson said. “I think it bodes well for the state.”

The partnership would bring 10 new faculty to the department, five from each institution. Marquette’s current biomedical engineering department serves about 400 undergraduate students and 50 graduate students, all of whom will have more access to MCW labs and affiliated clinics.

That will help both institutions develop more partnerships with companies in the Midwest, said Kris Ropella, the dean of Marquette’s Opus College of Engineering. The goal, she said, is making the state well-known for medical device innovations, similar to the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing that here in Wisconsin,” she said.

Marquette and MCW, which was part of Marquette until a split in 1967, already offer two joint advanced degrees in bioinformatics and functional imaging.

The latest partnership, though, doesn’t mean MCW will only collaborate with Marquette in the future, said MCW President and CEO John Raymond. He pointed to the two institutions’ work on the eight-member Translational Science Institute of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Raymond said the search will begin this summer for the department chair, who will report to officials at both universities.

The new department, he added, will be more effective than if MCW pursued such a thing on its own. It will, for example, be more competitive in bringing in federal research funds. It also will help ensure the two institutions attract top-notch faculty and students, he said, and ensure they stay in Wisconsin when they graduate.

“It just makes sense,” Raymond said.

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— By Polo Rocha,