UW-Madison: Nine projects selected for UW/WARF COVID-19 Accelerator Challenge

MADISON – From improved respirators to accelerated virus testing, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has selected nine innovative projects for development funding through the UW/WARF COVID-19 Accelerator Challenge. Each is designed to be rapidly advanced over the coming months to help combat the pandemic.

WARF received dozens of submissions from researchers and their teams across a wide range of affiliations, including the State Lab of Hygiene, UW Makerspace, statistics, design studies and engineering.

“When WARF announced this initiative back in April we did not know what kind of response we would receive given the many challenges – personal and scientific – our research community faces at this time,” says the organization’s chief executive officer, Erik Iverson. “The response was overwhelming.”

The selected projects and leaders include:

-Azam Ahmed (neurological surgery) and Terrence Oakes (radiology) for safe and sanitizable technologies to help prevent virus spread in a hospital setting.

-Kayley Janssen (Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene) for surveillance of the virus in wastewater.

-Tim Osswald (mechanical engineering) for mass production of cleanable and reusable respirators.

-Kalpana Raja and Ron Stewart (Morgridge Institute for Research) for a drug repurposing discovery system.

-Joshua Medow (biomedical engineering) for a digital assistance system for medical staff.

-Lennon Rodgers (UW Makerspace) for a compact air-purifying respirator.

-David O’Connor (pathology and laboratory medicine), Thomas Friedrich (pathobiological sciences) and David Beebe (biomedical engineering) for accelerated COVID-19 testing.

-Nathan Sherer (oncology) for an assay to identify virus inhibitors.

-Brian Yandell (statistics) for a method to track and visualize the outbreak in counties with small populations.

“We are grateful, humbled and excited to see how these innovations advance over the coming months to help our world respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Iverson says.

The grants, says Steve Ackerman, UW-Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education, “are critical to helping our research community more quickly advance commercially promising technologies closer to the marketplace in response to COVID-19 impacts. It’s partnerships such as this one with WARF that allow us to tackle the immediate and ongoing challenges that this pandemic presents. We are grateful to WARF for offering this opportunity to UW-Madison and Morgridge Institute for Research researchers, from faculty to staff and students.”

Projects not selected for funding through the UW/WARF COVID-19 Challenge may still be connected to other supportive resources within WARF.

WARF’s operations have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and the organization continues to welcome invention disclosures from UW-Madison faculty, staff and students.