Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

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Two UW-Madison teams chosen 2022 WARF Innovation Award winners

Selected from more than 400 innovation disclosures

Jeanan Yasiri Moe, Director of Strategic Communications
[email protected] | (608) 960-9892

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.

The 2022 WARF Innovation Award has been given to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ramathasan Thevamaran, assistant 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, associate professor of medicine; Miriam Shelef, associate professor of medicine; Michael Newton, chair 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.”

The other 2022 WARF Innovation Award finalists are:

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)

About WARF

Incorporated as a nonprofit foundation in 1925, WARF has a founding purpose “to promote, encourage, and aid scientific investigation and research at and within the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” Over 97 years the foundation has funded more than $4.1 billion in cumulative research grants to UW-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research (adjusted for inflation), been issued more than 4,000 patents (with 2,100 active patents), generates an additional 375 invention disclosures and 60 revenue-generating licenses each year, and helped create 185 startup companies based on WARF technologies. For more information, visit warf.org and watch a video about how WARF stewards the Cycle of Innovation.