FRI AM News: “WisBusiness: the Podcast” with Hongmin Chen and Jon Young of WARF Therapeutics; Taiwan representative highlights diplomatic, economic ties to United States

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with two major players in WARF Therapeutics: Hongmin Chen, head of biology, and Jon Young, who leads the initiative. 

Young, a returning guest on the podcast, describes the “virtual drug discovery” strategy and outlines the years-long process for getting drug candidates through the commercialization process. 

Chen was announced as the effort’s new head of biology in late September, and previously worked at Merck Research Laboratories in Boston. She said her time there involved interactions with academia, and required an open-minded approach to solving problems through the scientific process. 

“You have to bridge the research to the patient, and this part is probably more performed from the drug discovery process, and I see more and more efforts going that way,” she said. “Using the patient information to direct our models … Hopefully we will have more success in turning the target in drug development into a real drug that will benefit patients.” 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of WisBusiness podcasts: 

See the release announcing Chen’s hire: 

Listen to an earlier podcast with Young: 

— A representative of the Taiwanese government is encouraging UW-Madison students to pursue social activism and study abroad to help strengthen relations between the United States and Taiwan. 

Bi-khim Hsiao addressed a class of students yesterday at the UW Law School, where she emphasized the diplomatic and economic ties binding Taiwan to the United States and other countries. 

“I think it’s important that we’re all connected globally,” she said. “Here at UW-Madison, you have so many outstanding Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American students. We want to encourage more American students to also travel abroad and study in Asia.” 

Much of her remarks focused on the conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. She described Taiwan as “a full-fledged democracy standing on the front line of defending our freedoms against an ever-more aggressive, assertive and authoritarian People’s Republic of China.” 

She praised the Biden administration for its “rock-solid support” and reaffirmation of existing security arrangements with Taiwan. Hsiao also highlighted Taiwan’s role as a U.S. trade partner, noting the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries in 2020 surpassed “traditional allies” such as France and Italy as well as larger nations, pointing to India as an example. 

“We will continue to pursue closer economic and trade relations,” she said. “Another part of our trade relationship that’s actually very relevant to Wisconsin is the agricultural trade. Taiwan is the eighth largest consumer of American agricultural products.” 

On a per capita basis, she said Taiwan is second only to Canada in terms of consumption of U.S. agricultural products. As a smaller island country, she noted Taiwan is “heavily dependent” on trade in both agriculture products and energy. 

The state Legislature’s Bipartisan Taiwan Friendship Caucus hosted a kickoff event Wednesday with Hsiao, who represents the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, D.C.

The co-chairs of the caucus are: Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton; and Reps. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse; Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay; Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha; and Jon Plumer, R-Lodi.

Speaking at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Roth noted state lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this year that “reaffirmed our commitment to strengthening and deepening its ties between Wisconsin and Taiwan.” He said the caucus will continue working to promote a closer relationship between the state and Taiwan. 

Wisconsin exported approximately $201 million in products to Taiwan in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Watch a video of the event here: 

— Health officials are warning that COVID-19 case activity levels are increasing in the state, with 21 counties currently experiencing “critically high” activity. 

Thirteen counties have moved into the higher activity classification as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the state. All other counties in Wisconsin are reporting high case activity, health officials said yesterday during a Department of Health Services media briefing. 

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, noted that case rates among children under 18 have “reached levels last seen at the height of last fall’s surge.” Vaccination rates for those ages 12-17 are lower than for older adults, the DHS site shows. 

Following the recent move by DHS to back federal recommendations on Pfizer booster vaccinations for certain high-risk groups, health officials are emphasizing that the booster will extend protection against the virus for those who are eligible. 

“Evidence suggests that immunity is waning over time for some people who were initially well-protected by the vaccine. For these people, the booster dose will strengthen and extend the protection against infection, serious illness and hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19,” Westergaard said. 

See more on the booster recommendation: 

— A new Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows fewer public high school students in the state are filling out financial aid forms. 

The number of completions of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form among high school seniors in Wisconsin has decreased by 12.2 percent between 2019 and 2021, the report found. Report authors point to “ominous implications” of these findings, as filling out the FAFSA form helps many students attend college by accessing federal grants and loans. 

Other research has indicated that completing the FAFSA form is linked to a higher likelihood of enrolling in postsecondary education, report authors note. 

The decline in applications was higher among students attending schools in Wisconsin that have a majority of students of color and those attending schools with a majority of students from low-income households. 

“It appears that the students most likely to benefit from FAFSA were also the ones for whom COVID-19 most negatively impacted FAFSA completions,” report authors wrote. 

The report identified contributing factors including a lack of in-person interactions between school personnel and families over the past year and a half, students and families prioritizing “other pressing needs” during the pandemic, and students being reluctant to pay for a “pandemic-impacted” college experience following the challenges of remote high school education. 

See the full report:


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– Wisconsin potato growers had a good year in 2020


– Construction-related products advance in Coolest Thing contest

– Luna’s Groceries withdraws from South Park Street project


– For the first time, toxins found in blue-green algae bloom in inlet of Lake Superior

– Dane County Civilian Climate Corps part of 2022 budget proposal


– Wisconsin health officials push Pfizer COVID-19 boosters


– Some investors think startups with founders of color are ‘too risky,’ Fiveable CEO says


– New Glarus Brewery CEO sues law firm representing early investors in profit dispute


– O’Leary to retire as CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park


– 69-home deal on Milwaukee’s northwest side part of growing trend by out-of-state landlords

– Ranell Washington to become WHEDA board chair as Gamboa steps down


– Milwaukee hotel occupancy grows in September


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

UW-Green Bay: Chancellor Michael Alexander’s installation message – Northeast Wisconsin needs a healthy educational ecosystem to thrive and rise

UW-Madison: The 2021 winners: Cool Science Image Contest