Middleton plant laboratory turned into crop research center

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison has turned a $10 million commercial biotech plant laboratory in Middleton into the hub of a new crop research center.

Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center opened last month after Monsanto Co. donated the laboratory, which was previously used to develop genetically modified plants and crops, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/2jShCN2) reported.

Kate VandenBosch, the dean of the school's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said the center is combining the strengths of the donated lab and the university's plant science community to become the top university or nonprofit biotech crop facility in the country.

"There were no strings attached (to the donation)," she said. "There is no lingering relationship where they have a say on what we do or how we use it. So it's truly a gift."

She said the facility will continue to focus on genetic technology, but it'll concentrate on future science and conduct research funded by companies that can't gain or lose money from it. VandenBosch said the size of the facility makes it suitable for funding from foundations and federal granting agencies.

"We're dreaming big here, but I think there's a great likelihood of achieving this dream," she said.

Shawn Kaeppler, the center's director, said the center is expected to draw researchers from several university departments as well as from around the country and world.

"A facility like this provides the public an opportunity to work on some things that won't necessarily make enough money for a company but might be valuable for the agricultural sector, whether in our country or somewhere else," Kaeppler said.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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