History: A Legacy of Public Service and Innovation

Altarum Institute traces one of its deepest historical "roots" to 1946, with a group of engineering professors at the University of Michigan.

The determination of these early pioneers to apply new scientific and technical advances to the needs of society continues today. While the technical focus of the Institute has evolved, the heart of its mission has remained unchanged.

Merging with similarly minded technical organizations through the years, Altarum has built a focused and highly regarded capacity to synthesize data-driven research and client-centered consulting to understand and solve the systemic challenges that shape human health and health care.

As this timeline reveals, the organization's earliest involvement in health dates back to the 1970s. Health and health care became the Institute's sole focus in 2006.

View an Interactive Slideshow to Learn About Altarum's History

History: 1940s An Institute is Born

1946: Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (MARC) is formed by University of Michigan College of Engineering professors William Gould Dow and Emerson W. Conlon at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to keep the United States at the forefront of applied science.

Willaim Gould Dow PortraitWilliam Gould Dow
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
Founding Member, 1940s

"We have one major role: to provide the opportunity for energetic,
research-oriented men and women to contribute to the security
and economic and societal wellbeing of the United States."

 

 

Photo of Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, MichiganEarly facilities at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan,
were austere. Staffers were attracted not by physical
surroundings, but by interesting and challenging
work in a young, dynamic organization

History: 1950s The Early Years

1950: MARC expands its research program and becomes Willow Run Research Center, later Willow Run Laboratories.

Landsat and other earth observation satellites can trace their origins to Willow Run Laboratories, because their multispectral scanning "eyes" were the direct result of the work of our researchers. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR), or "side-looking radar," begins to develop and flourish under our staff leadership.

Russell D. O'Neal
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
Early Director and Long-Time Trustee, 1950s

"I recall clearly the first meetings. I went to the blackboard and drew a block diagram of an overall defense system, strongly emphasizing the need to take the systems approach."

 

When the first rotary platform was built to collect radar data at
various aspect angles, all of ERIM's radar research was for military applications.
Work in later decades made automobiles and highways safer for everyone.

 

 

 

The Packard Hangar, which for many years
was home to ERIM's flight operations at
Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

History: 1960s Pioneering Technology

1962: Institute researchers discover how to make the theory of holography, first described in 1948 by Dennis Gabor, work in practice. Institute researchers develop a technique for wavefront recording and reconstruction using lasers, thereby making possible the field now known as holography. Today, holograms can be found everywhere, from art galleries to airplane cockpits and credit cards.

1962: The Institute founds the International Symposia on Remote Sensing of Environment in Ann Arbor. The presence of renowned scientists like Jacques Cousteau helps make these meetings an important forum for disseminating remote sensing technology.

1969: Vector Research, Inc. (VRI) is formed. University of Michigan College of Engineering professors Seth Bonder, Bob Farrell, and Dave Brophy agree to incorporate VRI with a focus on analysis of national security issues as its main line of business.

Seth Bonder
Vector Research, Inc. (VRI)  Founder, Chairman, and CEO
1969-2001

"VRI is a high-performance business that consistently demonstrates the power of using scientific approaches to enhance decisionmaking for the planning and operation of public- and private-sector enterprises."

 

Holographic Laser Radar (HLR) produced the 3-D image of
Lincoln's head from a penny. The colors in the image represent height,
from red (lowest), through yellow and green, to dark blue (highest).
HLR's ability to distinguish differences in micrometers has important
implications for industrial inspection and quality control operations.

 

 

 

 

ERIM researchers Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks
discovered how to make the theory of holography work in practice.
The two developed a technique for wavefront recording and reconstruction
using lasers, thereby making possible the field now known as holography.

History: 1970s Entering the Health Sector

1971: VRI develops "VECTOR" models and receives substantial funding to build these models. It begins the long-term use of VECTOR models for analyses.

1972: Willow Run Laboratories spins off from the University of Michigan and is renamed the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM). William M. Brown is ERIM's first president.

1972: VRI enters the health sector. A National Institutes of Health contract creates an inventory of "health manpower" models, and catalogs their contributions to health services research. VRI wins its first health project for the analysis of national nursing policies.

1976: ERIM begins using its image processing expertise for medical purposes with the development of morphological operators for doing shape-based pattern recognition, along with a special-purpose parallel computer, the Cytocomputer™, to perform these operations in real time.

1976: VRI gets its first military health contract, specifically a contract with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Health Affairs to develop a method for allocating beneficiary populations to military health facilities (i.e., the catchment area directory) and model their demand for services from these facilities. This model is now known as the Managed Care Forecasting and Analysis System.

1979: The first VRI military contract exceeds $1 million and fosters the rapid growth of VRI Health Care Practice. This is a contract with OSD Health Affairs to create an integrated database called the Defense Medical Information System (DMIS), which maintained data on military beneficiary population demographics, military facilities, and the consumption of direct (through military facilities) and contracted (provided through civilian facilities) health care.

William M. Brown
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
First President, 1972-1994

"The key to ERIM's success as a technology integrator is its ability to develop complete systems, from conceptualization through the building of prototypes for testing and evaluation."

George J. Huebner
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
Chair, Board of Trustees, 1976-1995

"We are experiencing a period of great growth and opportunity as a research organization. As the Institute's governing body, we will be continuously challenged to build consensus among us that rests on thoughtful study of issues and a shared vision of where we are headed."

 

Medical imaging – the image shows a cross-section of a nerve fiber bundle less than 500 microns wide, acquired with an electron microscope. Each colored disk represents a single nerve fiber. Work in this area determined if certain drugs promote nerve regeneration in diabetic patients.

 

 

 

In 1976, Vector Research, Inc. (VRI) gets its first military health contract.
The Managed Care Forecasting and Analysis System (MCFAS) was developed to
forecast eligible beneficiaries and TRICARE enrollees throughout the six-year planning
and budgeting period used by the Department of Defense Military Health System.

 

 

History: 1980s Moving Forward

1980: Health Systems Research, Inc. (HSR) is founded to develop and implement innovative and effective strategies that improve the health and social wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities with public- and private-sector clients.

1981: VRI begins Military Health System (MHS) strategic planning and data management. VRI increases health strategic planning and database development and management business for MHS.

1986: KAI Research, Inc. is founded to provide regulatory, scientific, medical, and information technology expert services, reliably and cost-effectively, and to ensure regulatory compliance and safety for clinical trial participants.

1987: VRI Health Care Practice revenues constitute the majority of the organization's income. Throughout the 1980s, VRI revenues for all practice areas grow, and the health care practice revenues grow even more, eventually overtaking all the other practice areas. Nearly all of this revenue is from work with MHS.

Lawrence Bartlett
Health Systems Research, Inc. (HSR)
Founder and President, 1980-2006

"What really motivates us is the opportunity to see our work actually help individuals and families in communities across the country live better, healthier, and more productive lives."

Selma C. Kunitz
KAI Research, Inc. (KAI)
Founder and President, 1986-2010

"Since our inception, KAI has been a leader in the application of information technology and data management systems to clinical research with the ultimate goal of improving the health of our nation."

Rene Kozloff
KAI Research, Inc. (KAI)
Founder and Vice President, 1986-2010

"KAI has built its reputation on moving scientific discovery from the laboratory to clinical research. This skill has allowed us to translate new knowledge into clinical practice and improve health care for all."

 

KAI Research, Inc. is founded to provide regulatory, scientific,
medical, and information technology expert services and to ensure
regulatory compliance and safety for clinical trial participants.

 

 

 

Health Systems Research, Inc. (HSR) is founded to develop and implement
innovative and effective strategies that improve the health and social wellbeing
of individuals, families, and communities with public- and private-sector clients.

History: 1990s Fifty Years of Technical Innovation

1992: VRI's longest and largest single contract series, the OSD Health Affairs DMIS (later Defense)/System Integration, Design, Development, Operations and Maintenance Services I and II, generates far more than $100 million in revenue. Award of this contract brings the Military Health National Quality Review Program (NQMP) under VRI.

1996: ERIM celebrates 50 years of being a leader in sensor, image processing, and optical system technologies.

1996: VRI begins the design and development of the Michigan Care Immunization (later Improvement) Registry.

1997: ERIM establishes ERIM International, a for-profit subsidiary.

1999: ERIM International is sold, with proceeds returning to nonprofit ERIM

Jack L. Walker
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
Acting President,1994

"The key to the success of ERIM is its family of skillful and dedicated staff members who enthusiastically shared their knowledge and excitement in creating new image processing and sensor systems of great importance for our country."

Peter M. Banks
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
President and CEO, 1995-1997

"Fifty years ago, ERIM began its work as the Willow Run Laboratories of the University of Michigan. Today, the Institute has become a leader in sensor, image processing, and optical system technologies that are solving a wide range of problems of national and international importance."

Douglas E. Van Houweling
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
Chair, Board of Trustees, 1997-2001

"Our challenge going forward is to take this extraordinary history of advanced modeling and simulation and apply it to our nation's health care challenges as well as we have to its national security needs."

 

In 1996, Vector Research, Inc. (VRI) begins the design and development of the Michigan Care Immunization (later Improvement) Registry (MCIR). MCIR helps physicians and other providers track immunization requirements and schedules, manage vaccine stocks, and deliver immunization reports.

 

 

 

An aerial view of ERIM's Ann Arbor, Michigan,
headquarters. In 1996, ERIM celebrates
50 years of technical innovation.

History: 2000s Advancing Innovation

A New Beginning
2001: ERIM acquires VRI and builds a nonprofit business portfolio, serving clients in health care, national security, and environmental sectors.

A New Name
2001: ERIM is renamed Altarum Institute.

A New Home
2002: Altarum builds a new headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
2002: Altarum provides technical and program management support for the development of the Michigan Disease Surveillance Systems, the Nation's most advanced disease-tracking system.

New Strategic Focus
2006: Altarum Institute sets singular, strategic focus on health and health care and acquires HSR.

Altarum Expansion
2008: As a nonprofit, Altarum Institute is dedicated to its mission of serving the public good by solving complex systems problems to improve human health. To advance this mission, Altarum launches the $7 million, self-funded Mission Projects Initiative. The purpose of this Initiative is to solve pressing health care issues using systems methods at the institutional, organizational, and community levels in partnership with the public and private sector.
2009: Altarum acquires KAI Research, Inc., adding clinical research and research-based knowledge to its portfolio.
2009: Altarum launches a strategic research agenda focusing on culture of health, innovative care delivery, and health equity.

Craig Marks
Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM)
President, 1997-1999
Altarum Institute
Chair, Board of Trustees, 2001-2005

"Altarum is a family of problem solvers. We have the depth of knowledge, research skills, and talented staff to deliver on our mission and provide the answers that make for better lives and better business."

Kenneth R. Baker
Altarum Institute
President and CEO, 1999-2007

"Of all the things that have been said and written about change, one has seemed consistently appropriate as we reposition Altarum to a place of national leadership in the area of health systems research. The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are, for what we would become."

Charles Harvey Roadman II
Altarum Institute
Chair, Board of Trustees, 2005-2010
"Our vision makes a bold claim that we will be the impetus to a shift in how this nation delivers care and values the health of all its citizens. Our mission makes it equally clear that the research, analytical, and consulting services we offer all have one aim: to serve the public by improving its health status."

 

In 2006, Altarum Institute sets a singular,
strategic focus on health and health care.

 

Altarum Institute counts
the Department of Defense
Military Health System and the
Department of Veterans Affairs
among its largest client partners.

History: Future - A Future of Systems Research for Better Health

Photo of child running happily through a rain showerAs 2013 begins, Altarum Institute counts the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as its largest client partner, with the Department of Defense Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs close behind.

To every extent we are able, we will continue to advance our mission through the important work of these and the other federal, state, and local government agencies that constitute our core market.

We will also expand the work we do "outside" our core market – namely in the novel research, demonstration, and education initiatives we believe are defining the leading edge of transformation in the fields of health and health care.

Just as our predecessors did, we look to the future with confidence in our mission and our ability to serve the public good by improving human health.

 

L.J. Evans Jr.
Altarum Institute
Long-Time Vice Chairman, Trustee, and Chair of the Finance Committee
1989-2011

"We never lost our commitment to advancing the state of scientific research. ERIM was chartered in Michigan to focus on research and technology to secure the nation from external threats. Today, Altarum applies that heritage in defense systems research to meet systemic challenges in health care. The staff should be very proud that, each step of the way, it has improved the wellbeing of the nation, created economic value, and helped build an outstanding technical workforce."

Altarum History Video

 

Watch a Video to Learn About Altarum's History

 

Watch a Video to Learn About Altarum's History