Wisconsin ocular surgeons and surgical residents who want to learn a new procedure and perfect their techniques won’t have to worry about leaving the state or renting a temporary wet lab and classroom.

The relocated Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin (LEBW) has a permanent wet lab for education and training. Stacey Troha, LEBW interim executive director, said it’s just one of the opportunities the new building offers.

LEBW opened Dec. 3, 2018, at 5003 Tradewinds Parkway in Madison, roughly 9 miles away from the previous location. It received its first eye tissue at the facility just three days later. The facility serves as the dropoff, pickup and processing spot for donated corneas, which are transplanted to improve individuals’ sight.

The interim director believes new LEBW building is the only location in Wisconsin with a constant wet lab, which she described as a training facility, set up for ocular surgeons and surgical residents to utilize. Researchers can also use the wet lab to exam and test eye tissue.

“We’re really excited about our wet lab,” Troha said. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for (surgeons and surgical residents) to work with human tissue, and it really makes a difference in how they are able to perfect their surgical technique.”

Furthermore, LEBW’s new space has double the capacity to process the eye tissue with four labs. This will allow tissue to be moved to hospitals more quickly, Troha said. With two processing labs in 2017, the LEBW provided more than 1,800 transplanted corneas worldwide.

“The new facility is really going to be more reflective of ways that we can share our partnerships with our business partners and Lions Clubs,” Troha said, specifically mentioning the potential for using the site for Lions Club-sponsored vision screenings.

The decision to relocate was in the works for several years after LEBW outgrew its home on American Lane in Madison. Troha said the LEBW needed to be housed in two buildings – one for the call center and one for the lab and other staff due to the growth of the organization.

The new facility is almost double the size of the previous location at about 14,300 square feet. The American Lane facility was 8,200 square feet.

“We knew this was coming,” she said. “We were excited (to move), because we were packed to the gills. … We also knew we could do a lot more if we had more space.”

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