The UW Rheumatology Biorepository was established in the fall of 2015 by Dr. Miriam Shelef, one of UW’s rheumatologists and rheumatology researchers. It is a secure, confidential repository for clinical information and biologic samples primarily from people who have rheumatologic disease, but also from people without rheumatologic disease. Currently, over 700 people have agreed to participate in the biorepository and have contributed samples. More people participate and contribute samples every day.

The clinical data and biologic samples stored in the biorepository are used to better understand rheumatologic disease with the ultimate goal of developing better diagnostic tests and treatments to improve the health of people with rheumatic disease. There are many studies that would not be possible without this biorepository. Some of these studies are:

  • Dr. Shelef and her team are purifying neutrophils (a type of immune cell) and the products of neutrophils from the blood samples in the biorepository to identify how neutrophils are dysregulated in rheumatoid arthritis and how neutrophil activity may be related to different features of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Dr. Shelef and her team are determining how the genetic variants that predispose people to develop rheumatoid arthritis cause the immune system to function abnormally
  • Dr. Shelef and her team are using serum samples in the biorepository to discover new autoantibodies in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ankylosing spondylitis. Such autoantibodies could ultimately serve as better diagnostic and prognostic tests in these diseases
  • Dr. Shelef and her team are trying to isolate cells in the blood that have come from the inflamed joints in rheumatoid arthritis. Such cells may hold clues to how one person’s rheumatoid arthritis is different from another person’s rheumatoid arthritis or how someone might respond to a specific treatment. The ultimate goal is to develop a blood test that could be performed to determine appropriate treatments eliminating the current trial and error approach to choosing medications
  • Dr. Sara McCoy, another UW rheumatologist, has teamed up with Dr. Shelef to identify novel autoantibodies in Sjogren Syndrome, which one day could assist with diagnosis

These exciting projects and many more are the direct result of the generosity of the people who contributed samples to our biorepository, the dedication of the team of scientists who have contributed to the establishment and maintenance of the biorepository, assistance in recruitment from the physicians and staff at UW Rheumatology, Internal Medicine, Women's Health, and Geriatrics Clinics, and key financial support from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the University of Wisconsin. To make a gift to support the biorepository, please visit the UW Foundation or contact us at 608-709-9388 or

Biorepository Personnel

Founder and Director

Previous Study Coordinators and Research Assistants

Current Position: Chief resident, University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine

Portrait of Tobias Donlon

Tobias Donlon

Current Position: Medical Student, University of Minnesota Medical School

Portrait of Christopher Glover

Christopher Glover

Current Position: Medical Student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Portrait of Nicole Rademacher

Nicole Rademacher

Current Position: Bose Fellow, National Center for Cell Science, India

Portrait of Rebecca (Daeun) Shim

Rebecca (Daeun) Shim

Current Position: Master's student at Rush University