Changing the World

Changing the World

Wistar launches an epic capital campaign to transform the entire Institute

They call it the quiet phase of the capital campaign, but you would not know it as such if you stopped by the Office of Development at The Wistar Institute. Officially launched on September 23 to coincide with the groundbreaking of Wistar’s new research tower, the $35 million Building Wistar, Changing the World capital campaign has, like planning for the tower itself, required months of bustling activity.  

With the guidance of a steering committee comprised of Wistar’s leading supporters, $18.5 million has already been raised in the initial, quiet phase of the five-year campaign. 

“I believe passionately in the importance of expanding The Wistar Institute at this critical moment in time,” said Wistar trustee Robert A. Fox, chair
of the capital campaign and chairman and CEO of R.A.F Industries. “The campaign’s success will open the public’s eyes to who Wistar is and why its work holds the keys to everybody’s future.” 

According to Wistar’s Vice President for Institutional Development Peter Corrado, the quiet phase was engineered to build momentum toward reaching the $35 million goal. 

 “In over a century of existence, Wistar has only built two research buildings and to say that this is a dramatic time for the future of the Institute is an understatement,” said Corrado. “We think of this as a once-in-a-lifetime event for Wistar, and that’s how we present this to donors, as a rare opportunity to participate and make a direct impact on biomedical research.”  

Five of the floors in Wistar’s new research tower will house laboratories designed to support team science, an approach that reflects the future of biomedical research. With flexible, open floor plans and next-generation equipment and facilities, each laboratory floor will accommodate up to four principal investigators and their laboratory staff. Funds from the capital campaign will expand laboratories and enhance scientific facilities, including more advanced gene-analysis, computational, and molecular-screening resources. 

“Science today requires space and infrastructure to foster work that is both multidisciplinary and collaborative,” said Wistar president and CEO Russel E. Kaufman, M.D. “The new research tower will enable us to assemble larger teams of researchers who can do more. This is a building designed for the scientific talent that will drive the next generation of Wistar breakthroughs.”

Erecting the tower is only the first of the goals of the campaign, as the funds raised in Building Wistar, Changing the World will also support a $10 million initiative to recruit scientists in an effort to broaden the scope of the Institute’s research capabilities. Using Wistar’s team science model, the Institute will bring together scientists with different yet complementary areas of expertise to collaborate on promising new areas of biomedical research. The funding will help Wistar to recruit as many as 10 additional investigators, complementing the strengths of Wistar’s faculty and  increasing the capacity of every team working on genetics, vaccines, and cancer research. 

“The way biomedical research is conducted is evolving, and we must follow suit. A laboratory is no longer simply a room where individual researchers toil at their benches,” Fox said. “It’s a multidisciplinary space, where collaboration is key and open communication is paramount. This is the vision driving our campaign.”

In addition to driving Wistar’s research engine, the expansion project will enhance Wistar’s public outreach. Welcomed through a new public entrance to the Institute on Spruce Street, visitors will traverse a soaring glass atrium to attend scientific symposia and public events in a new, 200-seat auditorium. These inspiring and user-friendly public spaces will host Wistar’s education programs and connect more people — from elementary school students to senior citizens — to the language of science.

“There is an infectious attitude here, a total dedication and immersion in the mission of the Institute by everybody,” said Helen Pudlin, co-vice-chair of the Wistar board of trustees and executive vice president and general counsel of PNC Bank, N.A. “I think the people who are involved in Wistar as volunteers or who financially support Wistar feel that very strong drive and mission to help the scientists help humanity.” 

While the campaign is off to a strong start, the most challenging part is still to come: raising another $16.5 million. By entering the public phase of the capital campaign, Wistar will ask for support from the community at large to help ensure the Institute achieves its mission of advancing basic biomedical research to benefit humankind. 

According to Corrado, one concrete way that donors may directly participate in creating a better Wistar is through the naming opportunities that are still available. They can be as simple as naming a collaborative meeting space or as grand as the five-story atrium at the heart of the new building. Endowed professorships, in particular, offer lasting support for researchers engaged in specific fields of biomedical research, whether it is a type of cancer or an infectious disease. In the act of creating a legacy for themselves and their families, donors are really creating a legacy for all people, everywhere.  

The immediate opportunities offered by Building Wistar, Changing the World are clear. Wistar must build a state-of-the-art research tower to support its engine of discovery, populate it with the best minds and raise awareness about Wistar’s importance in the world. 

 “Wistar is like a venture capital firm that first had to generate the ideas to get into the game and create the funding,” Fox said. “Now that it’s time to grow, it is our turn as donors to invest in Wistar and its business of changing the world.”