UW-Madison: Two UW-Madison teams chosen for 2022 Warf Innovation Award winners

MADISON, Wis. – An engineering physics team using carbon nanotubes to build armor that’s stronger than Kevlar and a cross-disciplinary team making it less painful to diagnose a debilitating autoimmune disorder have taken top honors from WARF (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation).

The 2022 WARF Innovation Award has been given to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Ramathasan Thevamaran, professor of engineering physics, and postdoctoral researcher Jizhe Cai for their work, New, Lightweight Material to Protect Against Bullets and Other High-Speed Impacts.

The second winning team includes Sara McCoy, professor of rheumatology; Miriam Shelef, professor of rheumatology; Michael Newton, professor of biostatistics and medical informatics; and statistics graduate student Zihao Zheng for their work, Innovative New Diagnostic Test for Sjögren’s Syndrome.

The engineering team’s ultra-durable lightweight material made of carbon nanotubes shows unprecedented strength and a superior ability to protect against high-impact ballistics, including bullets and air and space debris.

The cross-disciplinary team developed a new diagnostic assay for Sjögren’s syndrome, a rheumatic disease that affects 4 million Americans. The new test is based on their discovery of novel autoantibodies that are relevant to the progression of the disease and replaces the need for a painful lip biopsy.

An independent panel of judges selected the winners from a field of six finalists drawn from several hundred invention disclosures submitted to WARF over the prior 12 months. The winning teams each receive an award of $10,000, with the funds going to the named UW–Madison inventors.

“Our Innovation Awards recognize some of the most exciting early-stage discoveries on campus,” says Erik Iverson, CEO of WARF. “We’re pleased to celebrate the nominees and the transformative work taking place across the UW–Madison community.”

WARF, incorporated as a nonprofit foundation in 1925, was founded to promote, encourage and aid UW–Madison’s scientific research investigation and research. It has since funded more than $4.1 billion in research grants to UW–Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research (adjusted for inflation). WARF has also been issued more than 4,000 patents and helped create 185 start-up companies.

The other 2022 WARF Innovation Award finalists include:

Making Telecommunications More Affordable

•Victor Brar (Physics)

•Seyoon Kim (Physics)

Testing the Strength of Soft Materials

•Melih Eriten (Mechanical Engineering)

•Corinne Henak (Mechanical Engineering)

Supercharging Photosynthesis to Increase Carbon Storage, Aromatics Production

•Hiroshi Maeda (Botany)

•Ryo Yokoyama (Botany)

•Marcos Vinicius Viana de Oliveira (Botany)

Detecting High Cholesterol in Kids to Prevent Future Cardiac Disease

•Mei Baker (Pediatrics)

•Brian Conti (Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene)