CALS team wins WARF Innovation Award for colon cancer test

A CALS-led project was among two selected to receive Innovation Awards from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The invention – a blood test for colon cancer – could offer new hope in the fight against this disease through earlier, easier and more detailed detection. Colon cancer afflicts millions worldwide – almost 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Early detection is critical to saving lives but colonoscopy can seem invasive and costly.

Photo: Jennifer Pleiman — Melanie Ivancic — Michael Sussman
Left to right: Jennifer Pleiman, Melanie Ivancic and Michael Sussman

A diagnostic test being developed by biochemistry professor Michael Sussman and his team requires only a small blood sample to search for protein “red flags.” Early results suggest the new test is able to detect cancer at an early stage and may outperform other screening methods.

“We’re still in (the) early stages,” says Melanie Ivancic, a member of the team. “The pilot study in humans is going well so far. We’re participating in the WARF Accelerator Program to expand the study to include a larger number of patients looking at pre-cancer polyps as well.”

The winning team also includes William Dove, Jennifer Pleiman, Edward Huttlin, Perry Pickhardt, Xiaodi Chen, Amy Irving, Adrian Hegeman, Mark Reichelderfer and Gregory Kennedy.

The second Innovation Award winner was chemistry professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoctoral fellow Hyun Gil Cha for a project that uses solar energy to transform biomass into a highly prized industrial molecule.

An independent panel of judges selected the winners from a field of six finalists. These finalists were drawn from among more than 380 invention disclosures submitted to WARF over the past 12 months. The winning inventions each receive an award of $5,000, with the funds going to the UW–Madison inventors named on the breakthroughs.

The other finalists included: Karthikeyan Sankaralingam, Jaikrishnan Menon and Lorenzo De Carli for a high-performance memory processing unit; Adel Talaat for methods to detect mycobacterial infections in dairy herds; Robert McDermott and Pradeep Kumar for advancements in quantum computing; and David Lynn and Uttam Manna for their work on super nonstick surface materials.

For more information, read the full UW-Madison news release.