Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Warf News & Media

Technology Monitor: Protection from radiation injury, Labrador genetics, tracking cancer and more

WARF Accelerator speeds the development of technologies with exceptional potential for commercial success. With targeted funding and expert advice from seasoned business mentors known as Catalysts, WARF Accelerator helps inventors develop their technologies and advance to the marketplace. The latest developments:


Companion health: Many Labrador retrievers develop a debilitating respiratory disease as they age. Susannah Sample and Peter Muir (School of Veterinary Medicine) are leading a genomic sequencing project to understand why.

Their team has completed sampling and DNA isolation from multiple dogs recruited for the study. To speed up progress, WARF Accelerator funding is helping the team to sequence the samples to a higher depth of genome coverage, with the overall goal of developing a genetic screening test for at-risk canines.


Blood work: A project led by Mike Sussman (biochemistry) could one day enable a simple blood test for detecting and staging colorectal cancer – one of the most treatable cancers if caught early.

This project builds on years of previous work to identify a panel of blood proteins that are predictive of the disease.

As Phase 2 unfolds in the months ahead, Sussman’s team will develop monoclonal antibodies and test them against some 250 stored blood samples.

Radioprotection therapy: Better therapies are needed to protect and heal patients who have been exposed to high doses of radiation for medical purposes (such as cancer treatment or bone marrow transplant), accidental trauma or even a terrorist attack.

A team led by Dr. Peiman Hematti (medicine) previously discovered that important immune cells, called macrophages, co-cultured with human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can significantly enhance the survival of mice exposed to lethal irradiation. Now, with additional support from the NIH, they look to produce the therapeutic macrophages at scale using an FDA-acceptable manufacturing process – two keys to commercial viability.


Watch this space: The emergence of virtual and augmented reality will one day immerse us in life-like environments and transform how we learn, game and design. However, rendering complex ‘point cloud’ data is one of the challenges to making this vision a reality.

Kevin Ponto (design studies; Virtual Environments Group) looks to build a software solution inside a video game engine. Ponto’s approach is radically different from common visualization techniques currently in use. His team has presented this work at two professional conferences, including one sponsored by a leading development company of large-scale immersive display systems. They have demoed their software to potential partners and gotten valuable exposure to local industry.


Desalination battery: A team led by Kyoung-Shin Choi (chemistry) has been busy engaging potential partners and formulating a commercialization strategy to advance a disruptive technology. Their innovation – a rechargeable desalination cell that could help avert a global crisis by turning seawater into fresh water. Unlike other tech on the market, Choi’s design is membrane-free and consumes almost negligible electrical energy.

So far the team has interacted with the city sewerage district and other local businesses struggling with high salt concentrations in their discharge water. They have engaged a venture capital firm focused on bringing technology to Africa and, on the invitation of a WARF Accelerator Catalyst, had the opportunity to participate in a technology de-risking workshop at 3M.

Slippery success: David Lynn (chemical & biological engineering) has wrapped up a project to advance a new class of ‘slippery’ polymer coatings with improved anti-fouling and anti-microbial properties. The project achieved a straightforward and scalable method for coating the inside of narrow tubes such as catheters, which is difficult or even impossible to do with conventional methods.

Lynn has been working with a strategic collaborator in industry and is currently preparing and optimizing samples for evaluation by the company.