Carl Gulbrandsen, who left his mark on Wisconsin’s research landscape and its early stage economy over the course of two decades, died Monday following a prolonged illness. He was 75.
A native of Viroqua in southwest Wisconsin, Gulbrandsen was managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation from 2000 to his retirement in 2016. A lawyer with a deep background in intellectual property law, Gulbrandsen joined WARF in 1997.
He was a founding member of the Wisconsin Technology Council and was inducted into its “Investor Hall of Fame” in 2016, the same year he retired.
Gulbrandsen’s tenure witnessed landmark scientific discoveries, the opening of the Discovery Institute and record-setting investment by WARF in UW-Madison, made possible by a doubling of WARF’s investment portfolio to nearly $2.7 billion during that time. WARF has patented and licensed UW-Madison technologies for nearly 100 years.
“Carl was an important part of WARF’s history of service to the university and his firebrand approach to advancing university technologies and managing controversial topics from stem cells to patent infringement will not be forgotten,” said Erik Iversen, WARF’s chief executive officer, in a statement.
During his tenure, WARF’s unrestricted gifts to the UW-Madison grew along with its endowment. Under his watch, the Discovery Building and its twin research institutes, the Morgridge Institute for Research and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, were built.
Gulbrandsen also helped establish WiCell, a global leader in the banking, testing and distribution of stem cell lines, as well as WiSys, the WARF-like foundation organized to benefit the other campuses of the UW System in the patenting and licensing of technologies.
“In the wake of recession and growing reluctance on the part of established companies to take risks on young technologies, WARF took on a stronger role in fostering entrepreneurism,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council. “That included growth of WARF’s direct investment program to many young companies that have grown up over time.”
Gulbrandsen also helped create 4490 Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund co-founded by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board. Another initiative during his time is Discovery to Product, which provides mentorship to enterprising faculty, staff and students.
The Tech Council offers its condolences to Carl’s wife, Mary, and his children: Lars Gulbrandsen, Ellen Jalkut and Erik Gulbrandsen, and their families. Here is a link that includes a full obituary and information about a memorial service: https://www.cressfuneralservice.com/obituary/Carl-Gulbrandsen