Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Warf News & Media

Technology Monitor: Land mine detection, Labrador genetics, drug delivery 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:


Canine health: Labrador retrievers are the most common dog breed in the U.S. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, aging labs often develop debilitating breathing problems. A disease called late-onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy is to blame.

A team led by Susannah Sample and Peter Muir (School of Veterinary Medicine) aims to discover a specific candidate genetic variant that associates with the disease, with the hope of developing a screening test that could one day help dogs (and their people) breathe easier. Reference-genome sequencing work is currently underway.

Virus detection: Tony Goldberg and Kathy Kurth (pathobiological sciences) have concluded their project designing next-generation diagnostics to detect microbial contaminants in food and related products. They successfully developed oligonucleotide ‘enrichment beads’ capable of removing contaminating nuclear DNA with remarkable efficiency. The team reports strong commercial interest, with Accelerator support proving “instrumental.”


MMP-9 delivers: Neuroscientist Robert Thorne has concluded a project investigating intranasal delivery of therapeutics. The project focused on the use of a protein called MMP-9 to make the intranasal lining more permeable and help shuttle biologics across the blood-brain barrier.

Results from chronic experiments in mice indicate that the new method enabled significant reductions in amyloid accumulation in relevant brain regions compared to controls. Final analysis and publication of the study is forthcoming as Dr. Thorne transitions to a position in the biotechnology industry (Denali Therapeutics, South San Francisco).


Scale up: A plant-derived solvent called GVL can break apart biomass and unlock the valuable sugars within. The GVL-based process is greener and potentially more affordable than other conversion methods that rely on harsh chemicals and costly enzyme cocktails.

To learn how the GVL process could scale up in an industry setting, a team led by Dan Klingenberg (chemical and biological engineering) has designed a continuous reactor system. They have successfully run a variety of biomass feeds and continue to hone methods to efficiently assemble and maintain the reactor.


Red rover: Around the world more than 1 million land mines lurk underground, mainly left over from wars and internal conflicts. These ‘ticking time bombs’ are responsible for some 6,000 casualties a year, approximately half of them children.

A project led by emeritus Prof. Gerald Kulcinski (engineering physics) looks to develop and demonstrate a lightweight, low power neutron source capable of rapidly detecting unexploded ordnance both on land and in the surf. Work is underway in the fusion neutron generation lab on campus, and the team hopes to reach the prototype phase by year’s end.