Emerging technologies at UW–Madison get boost from state funds

Discovery to Product Awards Funds Seven Campus Startups

Emerging technologies developed at UW–Madison will receive funding assistance as the result of an on-campus grant program administered by UW–Madison’s Discovery to Product (D2P) and a matching grant of $300,0000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

D2P’s annual State Economic Engagement and Development (SEED) program will help advance innovative research and commercialization of technologies developed by seven companies founded by UW–Madison researchers. WEDC’s support comes from its Capital Catalyst program, providing additional seed funds to accelerate in-state innovation and attract additional investment in Wisconsin’s emerging companies.

“This grant will assist these exceptional emerging companies as they complete further research on their inventive technologies to improve market readiness and, importantly, help grow these companies right here in Wisconsin,” said D2P Director Andrew Richards. “We very much appreciate WEDC’s matching support of the SEED program and innovation statewide.”

SEED program applications are evaluated on technical innovation, interest to a broad economic sector and potential to benefit Wisconsin’s industrial and economic development in the near-term. The selected projects range from improved blood testing for cancer, a cattle vaccine, and a novel semiconductor design.

“One of the most effective ways to enhance the development of early-stage startups in Wisconsin is by collaborating with our universities to advance new technologies,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC Vice President, Division of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “Funding for these companies increases their chances of successful commercialization and economic growth in
our state.”

UW–Madison’s George Huber in the lab with researcher Raka Dastidar.

Awardee George W. Huber, Professor of Chemical Engineering, UW–Madison says: 
“I’m grateful for this funding to support Pyran, Inc.’s continued development of renewable alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals.” The company has participated in Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Accelerator program, D2P’s Innovation to Market and Igniter cohorts, and the Center for Technology Commercialization’s SBIR Advance program.

The UW–Madison projects selected for funding by the SEED program in FY2024 are:

Michael Arnold (Professor of Materials Science and Engineering) will work with SixLine Semiconductor to modernize traditionally silicon-dependent microelectronics. The project will leverage advancements made at UW–Madison to purify and assemble carbon nanotubes and develop semiconductor devices that vastly outperform those conventionally fabricated with silicon.

Seungpyo Hong (Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences), David Al-Adra (Assistant Professor of Surgery) and Michael Poellmann (Scientist of Pharmaceutical Sciences) will work with Capio Biosciences to develop a highly sensitive and specific liquid biopsy for the capture, recovery, and sequencing of circulating tumor cells. While the funding will support the development and validation of the test for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), they expect to extend to a wide variety of cancers.

George W. Huber (Professor of Chemical Engineering), together with Pyran Inc., will work to advance chemical reaction technology to produce several bio-based monomers (specialized molecules) from sugars derived from agricultural waste. These monomers can be used in the synthesis of nylons and polyesters to enhance the performance of more expensive and less sustainable petroleum-derived plastics.

Sanbrita Mondal (Senior Research Scientist) and Kimberly D. Mueller (Assistant Professor), will work with Sensify, Inc. to implement clinical testing of SensifyAware, a digital platform for remote assessment of olfaction, and along with retinal imaging, develop a non-invasive workflow to screen for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. This study aims to improve the product’s viability, reliability and usability.

Sabine Pellett (Scientist, Department of Bacteriology) and William Tepp (Researcher, Department of Bacteriology) will work with WisperBio to develop a biological pharmaceutical to treat neuromuscular disorders. The research team will optimize production and purification strategies to refine production and achieve a high-quality, well-defined and stable drug substance.

Erica Shu (Biochemistry Teaching Faculty), along with EzraBio, Inc., will work to refine their next-generation automated RNA sequencing preparation platform. The product will significantly increase protein synthesis analysis speed and accuracy for biomedical researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

Adel M. Talaat (Professor of Pathobiological Sciences) and Vireo Vaccine International will collaborate to develop a novel nanoadjuvant vaccine delivery platform. The funding will support the development and testing of a vaccine against paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease), a significant health problem for the dairy industry in Wisconsin.