The central and lakeshore residential area of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is pictured in an aerial view during autumn on Oct. 12, 2013. At top is Lake Mendota and Picnic Point. Prominent campus buildings include, from left to right, the Wisconsin Energy Institute, the DeLuca biochemistry complex, Microbial Sciences, Bock Laboratories, Genetics-Biotechnology Center Building, Agricultural Hall, Nancy Nicholas Hall, McArdle Cancer Research Building, Van Hise Hall and the Medical Sciences Center. The photograph was made from a helicopter looking northwest. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Five research proposals with CALS faculty as principal investigators or co-investigators are among the 17 recipients recently selected for Round 4 of UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative awards. They range from the acquisition of an advanced DNA sequencer to the creation of a space for the study of ecological solutions to land use problems.

The goal of UW2020 is to stimulate and support cutting edge, highly innovative and groundbreaking research at UW-Madison and the acquisition of shared instruments or equipment that will open new avenues for innovative and significant research.

The five projects with CALS affiliations are:

Acquisition of an Illumina NovaSeq Next Generation DNA Sequencer for UW–Madison
Michael Sussman (Principal Investigator, Biochemistry); Jean-Michel Ané (Co-Principal Investigator, Bacteriology and Agronomy); Mike Cox (Co-PI, Biochemistry); Cameron Currie (Co-PI, Bacteriology); John Doebley (Co-PI, Genetics); Tim Donohue (Co-PI, Bacteriology); David Eide (Co-PI, Nutritional Sciences); Rick Gourse (Co-PI, Bacteriology); Jo Handelsman (Co-PI, Plant Pathology); Chris Hittinger (Co-PI, Genetics); Aaron Hoskins (Co-PI; Biochemistry); Shawn Kaeppler (Co-PI, Agronomy); Paul Koch (Co-PI, Plant Pathology); Robert Landick (Co-PI, Biochemistry); Wenli Li (Co-PI, Dairy Science); Ramamurthy Mahalingam (Co-PI, Agronomy); Patrick Masson (Co-PI, Genetics); Katherine McMahon (Co-PI, Bacteriology); Bret Payseur (Co-PI, Genetics); J. Wesley Pike (Co-PI, Biochemistry); John Pool (Co-PI, Genetics); Srivatsan Raman (Co-PI, Biochemistry); Jess Reed (Co-PI, Bacteriology and Animal Science); Federico Rey (Co-PI, Biochemistry and Bacteriology); Phil Romero (Co-PI, Biochemistry); Sean Schoville (Co-PI, Entomology); Phil Simon (Co-PI, Horticulture); Ahna Skop (Co-PI, Genetics); Garret Suen (Co-PI, Bacteriology); William Tracy (Co-PI, Agronomy); Thea Whitman (Co-PI, Soil Science); Marvin Wickens (Co-PI, Biochemistry)

DNA sequencing capabilities at UW–Madison will get a boost from this project, which supports the purchase of a ‘next generation’ DNA sequencer, the Illumina NovaSeq. The Illumina NovaSeq provides 15 times the sequence throughput at almost half the cost as the campus’ older instrument. This upgrade in hardware for the Illumina platform of sequencers, which performs work for hundreds of laboratories on campus, is required to maintain state of the art critical service to researchers and clinicians in colleges, centers and departments all over UW.

The UWLandLab—a Place for Ecological Solutions to Land Use Problems
Randy Jackson (PI, Agronomy); Michael Bell (Co-PI, Community and Environmental Sociology); Claudio Gratton (Co-PI, Entomology); Chris Kucharik (Co-PI, Agronomy and Environmental Studies)

The UWLandLab will be a space where innovative solutions to complex land use challenges are explored, interrogated, and planned. The UWLandLab will build and provide a sustainability process that brings together science-based knowledge, decision-support tools, and innovative stakeholder engagement to help solve problems and make decisions about land use with community partners. Critical to this endeavor, partnerships and trust will be cultivated and nurtured via reciprocal site visits, listening sessions, and collaborative data exploration.

All-Optical Electrophysiology-Electrophysiology without Electrodes
Katherine Henzler-Wildman (Co-PI, Biochemistry)

The field of optogenetics encompasses tools and techniques involving the use of light to control and monitor activity of excitable cells, such as the human brain and heart. These cells are genetically modified to express one or more light-sensitive proteins. This project will develop an all-optical electrophysiology system that will allow researchers to tailor conductances and other biophysical properties of a cell or groups of cells using light.

Accelerating Lead Optimization to Clinical Application Using Microscale Thermophoresis to Quantify Molecular Interactions
Katrina Forest (Co-PI, Bacteriology); Michael Sussman (Co-PI; Biochemistry); Douglas Weibel (Co-PI, Biochemistry)

This project supports the purchase of a Monolith NT.115pico instrument for use in analyzing molecular interactions. UW–Madison has an urgent need for a general and sensitive method to detect and quantify molecular interactions, such as small molecule-protein, protein-protein, and oligonucleotide-protein binding affinities. Key applications include using the instrument to screen libraries of potentially bioactive compounds and as a quantitative binding assay in fundamental biological, biochemical, and biophysical research. The Monolith instrument uses a new technology based on the movement of biomolecules along a temperature gradient.

The Monolith instrument will support UW researchers as they conduct in-depth mechanistic studies of small molecule/drug target interactions, develop cancer immunotherapeutics, and partake in other related basic and translational research.

Advancing CRISPR-mediated Genome Editing Technology at UW–Madison to Model Human Disease
David Pagliarini (Co-PI, Biochemistry)

This project will establish advanced CRISPR technologies to enable genome editing in multiple mammalian species. Advancing the use of CRISPR-mediated genome editing technology at UW–Madison will accelerate the ability to generate genetically modified animal models of human disease.

Learn more about all of the WARF Discovery Initiative award winners here.