Bioscience Research

Wisconsin has a long history of groundbreaking research in the biosciences.

Wisconsin Firsts

  • Discovery of vitamins A and B, enrichment of food with vitamin D (1913, 1916, 1924, UW)
  • First self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) to prevent “the bends” (1939, MCW)
  • Basic science cancer center at an academic institution (1939, UW)
  • Microsurgery technique to treat skin cancer (1941, UW)
  • Medical genetics department (1950s, UW)
  • Sibling-to-sibling bone marrow transplant (1968, UW)
  • First U.S. documentation and treatment of Lyme Disease (1970, MCW)
  • Rapid, accurate blood screening test for lead poisoning (1972, MCW)
  • Enzyme that explains how viruses cause cancer and AIDS (work awarded the Nobel Prize, 1975, UW)
  • With co-investigators, developed fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) for non-invasive, real-time assessment of brain function and blood flow (1992, MCW)
  • Identification of latex hypersensitivity (1994, MCW)
  • Immortal human skin cells (1996, UW)
  • Identification of genes associated with presence and severity of color blindness (1996, MCW)
  • Cultivation of embryonic stem cells in a laboratory (1998, UW)
  • First successful treatment of rabies patient (2005, MCW)
  • Irradiation of milk to add vitamin D (1925, UW)
  • Developed the blood thinner warfarin (1941, UW)
  • Derivation of stem cells (1998, UW)
  • Pioneering work on T-cell depletion for use in unrelated bone marrow transplants (MCW)
  • MRI method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease (MCW)
  • Helped to develop SPF rating for sunscreen lotion (1974, UW)
  • Developed concept for combination drug therapy for cancer (1950s, UW)
  • Developed Tomotherapy radiation therapy (2003, UW)
  • International leadership in blood and bone marrow transplants (MCW)
  • Innovative point-of-care diagnostic platform (private industry)
  • Breath analyzer to diagnose and monitor infection (private industry)
  • Minimally-invasive energy-based medical treatment device (private industry)

A significant amount of biomedical research is conducted by the companies that comprise the state’s bioscience industry. A recent report commissioned by BioForward, the industry’s state trade association, found that the industry has a total economic output of $27 billion.

There are nearly 1,600 bioscience companies in the state and they directly employ more than 36,000. Indirect impact from this industry adds an additional 70,000 jobs. Academic discoveries are being commercialized by companies across Wisconsin, many of which conduct biomedical research of their own. For example, there are companies in Wisconsin working on new ways to detect lung cancer and autism, developing new flu vaccines and cancer treatments, and advancing unique ways to treat burns and use diagnostic imagining. These companies span the medical device, pharmaceutical, research and testing laboratory, and agricultural biotechnology sectors.

More information information can be found a in the Energizing Wisconsin report.