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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

Opening doors to discovery

(Image courtesy of BWBR)

Philanthropy boosts the state’s investment in the University’s Biomedical Discovery District

The Biomedical Discovery District at the University of Minnesota has a clear-cut mission: to bring breakthroughs in the laboratory to patients as quickly as possible.

It’s an idea that’s easy to support. In 2008 the Minnesota Legislature invested in a major expansion of this state-of-the-art research park on the University’s East Bank campus. When the last of the Biomedical Discovery District’s six buildings — the Microbiology Research Facility (No. 6 on the map) — opens in 2015, the district will provide 700,000 square feet of space for more than 1,000 investigators and personnel to collaborate on research leading to lifesaving discoveries in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, brain sciences, vision, hearing, immunology, and infectious diseases. The work that happens in this leading-edge space is expected to attract $40 million in new research funding per year.

None of this would have happened without philanthropy. Donors believed in a future where basic science researchers and clinicians work side by side and build on one another’s discoveries to answer questions about society’s most challenging and complex health conditions, faster than ever before.

Here’s how just a few of these supporters have made a difference.


Lions Research Building

1. Lions Research Building

Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation

Named in honor of the Minnesota Lions’ steadfast commitment to the University’s work in blindness prevention, the Lions Research Building was built in 1992 to anchor what is now the Biomedical Discovery District. Today it is home to researchers focused, for example, on creating a brain cancer vaccine, understanding and treating age-related hearing loss, and examining how changes in the eye can cause macular degeneration. Over the past 50 years, the Minnesota Lions have given more than $20 million to the University.


McGuire Translational Research Facility

2. McGuire Translational Research Facility

Bill and Nadine McGuire

A $10 million gift from the William W. and Nadine M. McGuire Foundation in 2003 made possible the construction of the McGuire Translational Research Facility. The McGuires saw the building as an investment in healthy lives for all people and a place to spawn research that would make a global impact. Today it’s fulfilling that mission, housing researchers with the University’s Stem Cell Institute, Orphan Drug Center, and Center for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Translational Research.


Center for Magnetic Resonance Research

3. Center for Magnetic Resonance Research

W. M. Keck Foundation

The University’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) is internationally known for making MRI scanners bigger, faster, and capable of producing higher-resolution images, thanks in part to $6.25 million in support from the W. M. Keck Foundation. One of the foundation’s gifts, $1.75 million in 1999, allowed CMRR experts to develop the world’s first 7T scanner, which has provided the preliminary data that landed the U a leading role in the National Institutes of Health’s $30 million Human Connectome Project, now under way.


Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building

4. Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building

Winston and Maxine Wallin and family

Named in honor of two devoted University supporters, the Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building is home to world-leading research into Alzheimer’s disease, ataxia, muscular dystrophy, and other neurodegenerative disorders, as well as the Center for Immunology, where investigators are figuring out how to help the immune system fight off disease. In addition, the Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund, with an annually recurring $500,000 gift from the family, provides start-up funding to turn University neuroscientists’ promising but untested research ideas into reality.

Grossman family

As Beverly Grossman watched her husband, Bud Grossman, struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, she felt compelled to accelerate research that could make a difference for others. In 2007, she pledged $5 million to establish the N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care at the University. Bud’s son Tom Grossman and his wife, Pat, and their family also have committed more than $3 million to the center. Directed by renowned researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., the U team is working to pinpoint the molecular causes of Alzheimer’s, with the goal of finding better ways to detect, treat, and even prevent it.


Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building

5. Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building

Minnesota Masonic Charities

The name Minnesota Masons is synonymous with cancer research and care at the University of Minnesota. A $1 million commitment launched the partnership in 1955. Five-plus decades later, in 2008, Minnesota Masonic Charities pledged $65 million — the largest gift in University history — to support research at what became the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. The newest gift is accelerating cancer research and its translation into better cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies, as well as expanding cancer survivorship studies.

Lillehei Family Foundation

This family knows all about the University’s tradition of innovation. They lived it. After alumnus C. Walton Lillehei, M.D., Ph.D. — known to many as “the father of open-heart surgery” for performing a number of “world firsts” in University operating rooms — died in 1999, his wife, Katherine “Kaye” Lillehei, committed $13 million to create the Lillehei Heart Institute. Though Kaye is also now deceased, the extended Lillehei family carries on her mission of supporting University heart research and education of the next generation of nurses and doctors through giving.

Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation

A longtime supporter of the Lillehei Heart Institute’s work, the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation has given more than $16 million to heart-related research, care, and education efforts at the University. That includes a $2 million endowed faculty position and many years of support for the University’s cardiology fellowship and research programs. Andersen Foundation leaders appreciate the U’s “360-degree approach” to attacking cardiovascular disease — treating it, detecting problems earlier, and ultimately preventing heart damage in the first place.

By Nicole Endres

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