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Study finds Wisconsin children unequally ready for kindergarten  external link

Researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), part of UW–Madison’s School of Education, compared the literacy skills of Wisconsin’s kindergarten students and found them “far from equally prepared to learn.”

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UW–Madison to partner in $20 million cell-based therapy center  external link

The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $20 million to a consortium of universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to support a new engineering research center that will develop transformative tools and technologies for the consistent, scalable and low-cost production of high-quality living therapeutic cells. Such cells could be used in a broad range of life-saving medical therapies now emerging from research laboratories.

The new NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT) will be led by the Georgia Institute of Technology. Working closely with industry and clinical partners, CMaT could help revolutionize the treatment of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and other disorders.

UW–Madison was selected as a major partner in CMaT, a consequence of the university’s pioneering efforts in stem cell engineering and a long history of collaboration between its College of Engineering and School of Medicine and Public Health, says Sean Palecek, professor in chemical and biological engineering and CMaT’s associate director for research. Additional partners include the University of Georgia and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus.

Photo: Sean Palecek looking into a microscope

UW-Madison professor Sean Palecek is the associate director for research of the newly funded NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT). Photo: Stephanie Precourt

The UW–Madison team includes professors of biomedical engineering William Murphy, Randolph Ashton and Krishanu Saha; cardiology Professor Timothy Kamp; medical history and bioethics Professor Linda Hogle; and Mary Fitzpatrick, director of diversity research and initiatives for the College of Engineering.

The UW-Madison researchers will focus on two disease applications: induced pluripotent stem cells for making heart muscle, and engineered T cells to combat cancer.

In July, the Food and Drug Administration’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee endorsed the use of T cells, a type of immune cells in the blood, for treating certain types of blood cancer.

“Engineering the patient’s own T cells to recognize and kill tumor cells is one of the new frontiers in cancer research,” says Palecek. “But more work is needed to prevent a massive immune response in the patients who receive these modified T cells, and to learn how this type of therapy may eventually be applied to solid tumors as well.”

To realize the promise of stem-cell-derived heart muscle cells for survivors of a heart attack, who typically lose about 25 percent of their pump’s muscle mass, researchers need to go from making millions of cells to billions while ensuring uniformly high quality.

“Cell therapy is today where biotechnology was in the 1980s,” Palecek says. “It is a field with a ton of promise that we know will be big. But since we don’t yet have a cure for anything, we need to make plans for a manufacturing process while we don’t exactly know yet the specific cell type we’re going to manufacture.”

To help with that tall order, CMaT will rely on the combined expertise of UW–Madison’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center — co-directed by Murphy and Kamp — and the resources of Waisman Biomanufacturing, a cell and gene product development facility at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center.

“UW-Madison is one of just a handful of places in the world that has this kind of biomanufacturing capability right here on campus, allowing for a much faster translation of lab research findings to the clinic,” Palecek says.

Working closely with industry and clinical partners, CMaT could help revolutionize the treatment of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and other disorders.

Waisman Biomanufacturing, along with Madison Area Technical College (Madison College) and an already formed CMaT industry consortium, will be critical partners in workforce development, since the fast-growing cell therapy industry will need many more people with specialized training, especially at the community college level.

Madison College is ahead of the curve with an existing stem cell certificate program and, with CMaT support, will further refine the skills taught through this program and help establish similar training opportunities throughout the country. UW–Madison’s Fitzpatrick will co-direct center research on inclusivity impacts on manufacturing.

Palecek says building a community of people with different levels of training and career paths, but similar overall interests, is one of the biggest benefits of a large-scale project like CMaT.

“The opportunity for collaboration across multiple disciplines and institutions is very exciting,” he says. “In addition, our regular interactions with companies that are on the front line of making these cells mean that they may sponsor additional research efforts and offer internships to our students, ensuring that this kind of public-private partnership will truly be win-win for everybody.”

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Fire in a crowded theater? Nitrate film is crumbling as experts strive to salvage the past  external link

Mary Huelsbeck, assistant director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, and director Jeff Smith, in the Wisconsin Historical Society vault. Old movies, TV classics, and a series of Soviet films share the space on both 35 millimeter reels and the 16 millimeter reels seen here. David Tenenbaum, University Communications

A University of Wisconsin-Madison group has just published results from a six-year exploration of old, unstable film stock that nevertheless holds the oldest heritage of moving pictures.

Called “nitrate film,” it’s flammable and fragile. Many films shot a century ago are largely transparent, or clumped and unable to be seen, let alone projected.

This deteriorated cellulose nitrate film in cold storage at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research is past the point of no return. David Tenenbaum, University Communications

The Wisconsin Nitrate Film Project at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research was the brainchild of Heather Heckman, then a communication arts graduate student in Madison. Heckman, who now directs the Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina, wanted to address nitrate film from multiple directions, and so the effort combined chemical analysis of the film, review of historical literature on it, and information from professionals who have handled, stored and shipped nitrate film.

Cellulose nitrate film stock was introduced in the late 1800s as a medium to hold the emulsion that carries a photographic image.

“Film had to be transparent and flexible enough to run through the camera and projectors,” says Smith, “and this engineering problem was solved by invention of cellulose nitrate. At first, people did not think about it being highly flammable, but the word got around that the brown powder it formed after it degraded was especially combustible. Our tests, on a small sample, showed the powder to be non-hazardous, but more tests are needed.”

A Wisconsin National Guard unit shows off its cavalry and horse-drawn artillery along the Mexican border in 1916. Sporadic degradation is visible in the film. The full film is here. Credit: Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research collection

 

The phase-out of nitrate film in favor of “safety film” started in the 1930s, and Eastman Kodak “retired” nitrate film by 1952. Many older films have been transferred to modern film stock, but the remaining nitrate film amounts to “a whole visual heritage,” Smith says. “If you look at the silent movies, the rate of survival is around 20 percent. Preserving what we have left is important, because the losses have been massive.”

The nitrate project was needed, Smith says, “because we did not know what happens at a very basic chemical level.”

The project’s researchers based their recommendations on tests of surplus nitrate stock.

“The big finding was to keep it dry,” Smith says. “Humidity is one of the most important factors to control, and temperature comes second.”

The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research stores about 20,000 film and videotape titles in the Wisconsin Historical Society. A row of freezers holds a handful of nitrate films that are likely bound for storage at the Library of Congress. According to Jeff Smith, “The inventory once contained historical curiosities, a short on Clark Gable’s career in the navy, newsreels about the war effort during World War II, and a Bureau of Visual Instruction short: ‘Wisconsin, your government at work.’ But we have downsized our nitrate collection, sending some titles, like the Gable short, to other archives.” David Tenenbaum, University Communications

Beyond the science, the project also created an oral history from people experienced in handling nitrate stock. “These were long-form interviews of projectionists, preservationists and people who worked in photo labs,” says Smith. “There has been lore that nitrate would spontaneously combust, but we heard that nitrate was to be respected but not feared. It needs to be handled with care, but it’s not going to explode.  It’s not nitroglycerin,” even though cellulose nitrate is a close relative of guncotton and other flammables.

Early projectors used high-temperature arc lamps, a decidedly dicey combination with flammable film, and projectionists “deserved hazard pay,” says Smith. “A 1936 trade journal estimated that a film projectionist in the U.S. died every 18 days, partly attributable to the dangers of working with nitrate film.”

Most of the well-known films from the 1930s and ‘40s were shot on nitrate, but were transferred long ago to safety film stock, says Mary Huelsbeck, assistant director of the Wisconsin Center. Although transfer and restoration is expensive, scanning nitrate films is not as risky as projection.

Still, the remainder deserves preservation, says Huelsbeck. “What’s left on nitrate documents early film history by independent film makers and studios. This is a part of our past life that we can’t find documented anyplace else.”

Some of the most endangered films date to beginning of motion pictures, between 1893 and 1910, says Smith. “They are short, attention grabbing. I see them as equivalent to a YouTube video today.”

Stills from “Our Own Gang,” a silent shot in Madison in 1933 that was inspired by the popular “Little Rascals” series. The film, a paid ad for the businesses seen in the many frantic chases. Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research collection

 

Despite its instability and danger, “For its pictorial quality elements, its clarity, its contrast, nitrate was the best,” says Smith. “Many people say you have not seen the classic film noir titles unless you have seen them on nitrate.”

The Wisconsin Nitrate Film Project was supported by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

 

 

 

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UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative seeking Round 4 proposals  external link

Building on the success of early rounds of funding provided by the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative awards, researchers are invited to apply for Round 4 funding.

Photo: Daniel Grabois playing a theremin

Daniel Grabois, associate professor of horn at UW-Madison’s School of Music, demonstrates the theremin, one of many instruments rounding out the collection that will be available for use through the UW2020-funded Electro-Acoustic Research Space (EARS). Photo: Natasha Kassulke

Starting today, Sept. 12, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education of the University of Wisconsin–Madison is accepting applications for funding from high-risk, high-impact research proposals. UW2020 funds both investigative and infrastructure projects at UW–Madison and UW–Extension, with the goal of supporting collaborative, multidisciplinary and transformative research.

Round 4 funding will be provided for one to two years, depending on the needs and scope of the project. Awards range from $100,000 to $500,000. An initial submission of a brief abstract is due by Oct. 16, with full proposals due Dec. 4. UW2020 is funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), with support from UW–Extension.

Early recipients of UW2020 funding, from the School of Music to the School of Medicine and Public Health and beyond, have assembled interdisciplinary teams to address their research questions and have attracted outside funding with initial support from the program.

Photo: Daniel Grabois playing an eigenharp

Grabois demonstrates the eigenharp, an electronic music instrument, which allows the musician to play and improvise using a wide range of sound. Photo: Natasha Kassulke

Daniel Grabois, a professor of horn in UW–Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, used UW2020 funding to complete installation of the Electro-Acoustic Research Space (EARS), which has its grand opening at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 15. The new facility will allow student, staff and faculty musicians to use digital technology to manipulate and transform the sounds made by acoustic instruments and to create new timbres and combinations of computer-generated sounds. The result will be new compositions for electronic and acoustic instruments, as well as a space to rehearse and record new work.

Grabois predicts that the campus community will be impressed by what they find in EARS. A dizzying array of electronic and acoustic instruments, mixing boards and speakers are connected by a nerve center of computers. Most of the equipment was purchased from Wisconsin companies. In addition to faculty and students in the music school, other performing artists and even filmmakers will have access to the space. Grabois also plans to host open houses for the community at EARS.

“You can say ‘oh, cool’ to just about everything in this room,” says Grabois. “Think of it as a library that has a lot of potential knowledge in it and you go there and dip into it as you see fit.”

“We built this collection and set-up with being mobile in mind. Our research is concerts off campus,” he says.

Photo: Luis Populin

Luis Populin

On the other side of campus, Associate Professor of Neuroscience Luis Populin has used UW2020 funding to gather an interdisciplinary team that is working to combine two types of brain imaging technology — positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) — to better understand the effects of a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) on long-term brain function and neurochemistry. The results are expected to inform research on drug and behavioral treatments for ADHD, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

The research group draws from medicine, engineering, medical physics and the Waisman Center. Each researcher brings expertise in their field that, combined, allows the project to move along faster than otherwise possible.

“This kind of collaborative project is possible at UW–Madison and probably not in many other places,” Populin says. “That’s because we have the capability of doing the fMRI part and the PET part, plus we have a facility that makes the necessary tracers, and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.”

“We have all the tools available on campus, but we would not have been able to couple them to the required expertise necessary without this UW2020 grant,” says Bradley Christian, co-director of the Brain Imaging Core at the Waisman Center and a member of the brain imaging project.

Photo: PET/MR machine

The PET/MR technology, available at UW–Madison and only a few other institutions in the world, is part of a UW2020-funded study on the effects of therapeutic drugs. Photo: Alan McMillan

The team recently received a $1.7 million grant from the defense research agency DARPA, which Populin says is a direct result of the UW2020 funding. The newly funded study is part of a larger DARPA-funded project led by Justin Williams, professor and chair of UW–Madison’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“My sense is that this is just the beginning of obtaining more grants like that,” Populin says.

“This is a good example of the Wisconsin Idea in action. We are here to do things that have never been done before and may have the potential to benefit society at large,” Populin says. “Sometimes you just need to, as we have, get the right group of people together and then the ideas start to flow.”

“When I hear about the amazing research being accomplished by UW-Madison researchers such as Daniel Grabois and Luis Populin, I am reminded of how transformative UW2020 is in allowing us to fund the projects our UW–Madison researchers have dreamed about doing,” says Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Marsha Mailick.

“We are excited to announce a new round of funding just as we are learning about the success of earlier rounds that includes generating extramural funding, publishing results and, ultimately, changing lives for the better,” says Mailick.

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With deer season on horizon, lab ramps up for CWD testing  external link

More than half a million hunters will take to Wisconsin’s woods and fields this fall in pursuit of white-tailed deer, the state’s iconic big game animal. If trends continue, nearly 100,000 of those hunters will be successful.

Photo: White-tailed deer buck

To date, there is no evidence showing that CWD can be or has been transmitted from animals to humans, but preliminary results from a Canadian study reported that cynomolgus macaques given infected meat in their diet contracted CWD. Photo: USDA Agricultural Research Service

But against the backdrop of another productive bow and gun season in Wisconsin, several state agencies, including the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, are gearing up to make the 2017 deer harvest a safe one for hunters and their families.

Last year, some 6,600 Wisconsin hunters submitted tissue samples from harvested deer to WVDL for testing for chronic wasting diesease (CWD), the infectious neurological disease that has been found in both wild and captive deer in at least 24 Wisconsin counties, mostly in the southern half of the state.

This year, there may be a new urgency to test deer taken in the hunt as preliminary results from a Canadian study released in April reported that cynomolgus macaques given infected meat in their diet over a three-year period contracted CWD.

Photo: Keith Poulsen

Hunters should strongly consider testing their deer, especially if the animals were taken in any of the Wisconsin counties affected by CWD, says veterinarian Keith Poulsen. WVDL Photo

The study, conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has only been published in abstract form and has yet to complete the peer review process. The findings, however, are a signal that more research on the risk of CWD to human health is necessary and that hunters should strongly consider testing their deer, especially if the animals were taken in any of the Wisconsin counties affected by CWD, says veterinarian Keith Poulsen, diagnostic and case outreach coordinator for WVDL.

“This is the first controlled study of contaminated meat causing clinical disease,” says Poulsen of the research, where over a three-year period five monkeys were fed a diet that included the equivalent of a single seven-ounce venison steak per month. Three of the monkeys became infected, with two showing clinical signs of the disease. “The results show we need to continue this work.”

To date, there is no evidence showing that CWD — which has been found in deer, elk, moose and reindeer — can be or has been transmitted from animals to humans. CWD is one in a family of diseases caused by a prion, a nearly indestructable infectious agent whose epidemiology and mechanisms of action and transmission are not fully understood.

“The chance of someone getting prion disease is remote, but not zero,” Poulsen explains. “It would be a mistake to ignore it.”

Photo: Image of the bones of animals from necropsies sent through the tissue digester after testing at Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in UW-Madison in Madison, Wi. Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (Photo by Hyunsoo Léo Kim | University Communications)

Bones of animals from necropsies sent through the tissue digester after testing at Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Photo: Hyunsoo Léo Kim

CWD first definitively emerged in Wisconsin’s deer herd in 2001. Since that time, WVDL, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), has provided free testing of harvested deer for hunters.

CWD has so far been found in both wild or captive cervids — deer, elk or moose — in more than 20 states and Canada.

WVDL is one of only 19 labs in the United States capable of testing for CWD and other prion diseases. The lab works closely with both the DNR and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to help manage the disease, conduct surveillance, and ensure human health.

The only way to diagnose CWD in an animal is to test the brain, tonsils or lymph nodes after death. There is no viable test for live animals. For hunters submitting tissue samples for testing, the average turnaround time from when a deer is brought to a sampling station is about 10 days. WVDL can process as many as a thousand samples a day. Samples are bar coded to ensure a match between a hunter and the sample submitted for testing, and results can be tracked online.

WVDL also tests for CWD in samples sent from more than half a dozen other states.

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UW–Madison ranked in top 5 for federal support for graduate students  external link

A recent survey released by the National Science Foundation (NSF) ranks the University of Wisconsin–Madison fifth among universities and colleges receiving federal fellowship support.

According to the “Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions” from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the NSF, in fiscal year 2015, UW–Madison was awarded about $27,324,000 in funding for science and engineering fellowships, traineeships and training grants toward the development and maintenance of the scientific workforce. This is an increase from fiscal year 2014 when UW-Madison received about $23,997,000 and was ranked sixth.

In fiscal year 2015, federal agencies obligated $30.5 billion to 1,016 academic institutions for science and engineering activities. Fellowships, traineeships and training grants is one of six categories included in this federal academic science and engineering obligation.

“This is very good news and puts UW–Madison among the top universities in federally-funded training support for graduate students,” says Marsha Mailick, UW-Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “A fellowship doesn’t just offer a student prestige. Having fellowships allows our graduate students to be more financially flexible to focus on professional development and conduct research to advance their interests in a particular field.”

Funding support for graduate school at UW­–Madison largely takes the form of graduate assistantships (teaching or research), fellowships and traineeships. Other sources of funding for students include employment in the community and loans from the Office of Student Financial Aid.

“One of the many challenges that graduate programs face is obtaining the funding needed to pay for tuition fees and living expenses that graduate students incur during the course of their study and research,” explains William J. Karpus, dean of UW-Madison’s Graduate School. “Fortunately, government agencies recognize the value of graduate education and the accompanying innovative research, and support students pursuing a Masters or Ph.D. degree through these prestigious fellowships.”

UW­–Madison’s success in drawing federal support for its graduate students is based on a combination of factors that makes the university highly competitive, Karpus says. This includes the fact that the university ranks in the top six nationwide among research institutions in terms of expenditures, has a number of faculty considered among the top of their fields, and houses a wide array of graduate programs across all disciplines.

“We have 102 Ph.D. and 165 master’s degree programs that span a breadth of disciplines,” Karpus says. “We also confer the third-highest number of Ph.D. degrees in the United States.”

Students at UW–Madison could go anywhere in the country, says Ian Robertson, dean of UW-Madison’s College of Engineering. “They choose Madison because they recognize the success of our science and engineering research enterprise, they have the opportunity to work with some of the best faculty in the nation, and they receive the financial and academic support needed to build and launch their careers.”

In addition to the overall rankings, UW-Madison is ranked first for funding from the NSF and U.S. Department of Agriculture.  It is ranked ninth for funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. To see a full list of the rankings, visit: https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/fedsupport/2015/html/FSS2015_DST_20.html.

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Renewable energy flooring takes a step forward at Union South  external link

Photo: People walking across energy-harvesting floor

Visitors to UW-Madison’s Union South walk across a section of floor designed and installed by College of Engineering researchers to capture the energy of footsteps and turn it into usable electricity. Photo: Adrienne Nienow

As thousands of visitors each day walk across a new flooring installation in UW-Madison’s Union South this fall, they might not realize they’re participating in what could very well represent a leap into the future of renewable energy production.

A research team led by Xudong Wang, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of materials science and engineering, in collaboration with the UW–Madison Grainger Institute for Engineering, has installed a high-tech flooring prototype that harvests the energy of footsteps and converts it into electricity.

Photo: Xudong Wang holding piece of wood used in energy-harvesting flooring

Xudong Wang holds a sample of the energy harvesting technology, which uses wood pulp and harnesses nanofibers. Photo: Stephanie Precourt

The prototype is a 96-square-foot rectangle of modified wood flooring panels located inside the building’s West Johnson Street and Orchard Street entrance. It looks just like typical wood flooring, but its low-tech facade masks innovative technology that could soon contribute to the expanding suite of renewable energy options. The power-generating floor includes an additional green credential in that its functional component is mostly made from recycled wood pulp, an abundant waste material.

The wood pulp is central to the technology’s function. The pulp, which is already a common component of flooring, is chemically treated to produce an electrostatic charge when it comes into contact with an embedded electrode.

The charge is transmitted through embedded wires, and can power lights or charge batteries. And because wood pulp is a cheap, abundant and renewable waste product of several industries, flooring that incorporates the new technology could be as affordable as conventional materials.

While there are existing similar materials for harnessing footstep energy, they’re costly, nonrecyclable and impractical at a large scale. That’s why Wang is so excited about the prototype installation in Union South, which is the result of research first published in the journal Nano Energy in 2016.

Photo: Display board showing energy captured

The electricity-producing flooring installation includes a monitor displaying the energy captured as visitors walk across the panels. Photo: Adrienne Nienow

“This is the first on-site demonstration of our technology,” Wang says. “It shows an exciting path leading materials science technology from the lab toward a real product. It’s also an intriguing technology for energy savings, and is beneficial to our environment.”

Wang’s research centers on the use of mechanical energy sources to generate electricity. For years, he has engineered different materials to improve a technology called a triboelectric nanogenerator. Triboelectricity is the same phenomenon that produces static electricity on clothing. Chemically treated cellulose nanofibers are a simple, effective, low-cost alternative for harnessing this mechanical energy source, Wang says.

The UW-Madison team’s advance is the latest in a green energy research field called “roadside energy harvesting” that could, in some settings, rival solar power — and it doesn’t depend on fair weather. Researchers like Wang who study roadside energy harvesting methods see the ground as holding great renewable energy potential well beyond its limited fossil fuel reserves.

“Roadside energy harvesting requires thinking about the places where there is abundant energy we could be harvesting,” Wang says. “We’ve been working a lot on harvesting energy from human activities. One way is to build something to put on people, and another way is to build something that has constant access to people. The ground is the most-used place.”

“This is the first on-site demonstration of our technology. It shows an exciting path leading materials science technology from the lab toward a real product.”

Xudong Wang

Someday soon, flooring like the new prototype in Union South could be used in high-traffic spaces to generate power for overhead lighting or smart building sensor networks. The campus prototype powers an electronic informational sign that explains the technology and tracks the power harnessed by thousands of footsteps over the coming months.

“Our initial test in our lab shows that the technology works for millions of cycles without any problem,” Wang says. “We haven’t converted those numbers into years of life for a floor yet, but I think with appropriate design, the technology can outlast the floor itself.”

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation holds the patent to the flooring technology, and supported its development through its Accelerator Program. The prototype in Union South is the product of a collaboration among UW–Madison’s College of Engineering, Wisconsin Union and offices of Risk Management and Environment, Health and Safety and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory.

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Study: Early farm exposure mitigates respiratory illnesses, allergies and skin rashes  external link

Exposure to dairy farms early in life may dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of respiratory illnesses, allergies and chronic skin rashes among young children according to a collaborative study.

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Waisman Biomanufacturing has new managing director  external link

Carl Ross has been selected to serve as managing director of Waisman Biomanufacturing. His appointment started July 1, following more than a year as its interim director.

Located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Waisman Center, the primary mission of Waisman Biomanufacturing is to help UW scientists and others efficiently translate scientific discoveries into early-stage clinical trials. It helps develop manufacturing processes and quality-control methods and provides overall product development and regulatory support.

Photo: Carl Ross

Carl Ross

Ross has more than 26 years of industry experience developing and optimizing novel fermentation processes and advancing a wide range of cell and gene therapies, vaccines and therapeutic proteins into human clinical trials. He has worked at Waisman Biomanufacturing since its inception in 2001 and served as its assistant director, overseeing the highly trained staff and well-equipped facility, before his appointment as interim director in 2016.

“We are thrilled to have Carl continue to lead Waisman Biomanufacturing, now on a more permanent basis,” says Albee Messing, director of the Waisman Center, a research center focused on human development, developmental disabilities and neurodegenerative diseases. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about accelerating the advancement of novel biological therapies and vaccines, as well as an excellent understanding of the complexities of clinical trials and good manufacturing practices.”

Since opening its clinical Current Good Manufacturing Practice facility (cGMP, a designation of the Food and Drug Administration) in 2001, Waisman Biomanufacturing has helped create more than 320 clinical-grade products and earned a reputation for working closely with clients for cost-effective and timely manufacture of quality products.

“The challenge and opportunity to help bring advanced, next-generation therapies to the clinic has been a passion for me during the last 16 years at Waisman Biomanufacturing,” says Ross. “As managing director, I look forward to an expanded role in the selection and execution of our projects as well as the training and development of staff.”

With 10,000 square feet of facility space, Waisman Biomanufacturing employs more than 30 full-time and 25 part-time staff members in manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance and administrative areas. It also operates and maintains seven cGMP compliant cleanroom areas to accommodate clinical production of mammalian and microbial therapies and aseptic filling of final products.

The primary mission of Waisman Biomanufacturing is to help UW scientists and others efficiently translate scientific discoveries into early-stage clinical trials.

Several well-known Madison-based biotech companies started by UW-Madison faculty have partnered with and benefited from the experience and expertise of Waisman Biomanufacturing staff. These include Madison Vaccines Incorporated, Cellular Dynamics International (since acquired by Fujifilm), and Stratatech (recently acquired by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, a company based in the United Kingdom).

Waisman Biomanufacturing is currently in collaboration with Cynata Therapeutics, an Australian stem cell and regenerative medicine company, to test and develop therapies based on a proprietary stem cell technology. Staff are also working with UW–Madison scientists Tom Turng, Naomi Chesler, Igor Slukvin and James Thomson (who is also director of regenerative medicine at the Morgridge Institute for Research) to test in clinical trials artery cells derived from stem cells.

Plans are underway for a $2.5 million investment to improve and upgrade Waisman Biomanufacturing’s facilities and systems over the next 12 to 18 months. It will allow the center to prepare for the next generation of biopharmaceuticals.

“I am honored to lead the highly skilled and motivated Waisman Biomanufacturing team and proud of the work that we do as an example of the Wisconsin Idea,” says Ross. “I am also inspired by my colleagues at the Waisman Center and all that they do to assist families and advance research involving intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

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Magnetic fields in distant galaxy are new piece of cosmic puzzle  external link

Astronomers have measured magnetic fields in a galaxy 4.6 billion light-years away — a big clue to understanding how magnetic fields formed and evolved over cosmic time.

Photo: Hubble Space Telescope image of the gravitational lensing system in the new research. The background quasar is lensed by the foreground galaxy into images A and B.

Hubble Space Telescope image of the gravitational lensing system in the new research. The background quasar is lensed by the foreground galaxy into images A and B. Image courtesy of Sui Ann Mao

In an article published Aug. 28 in Nature Astronomy, a collaboration led by Sui Ann Mao, the Minerva Research Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and a former postdoctoral Jansky Fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, reports the discovery of large, well-ordered magnetic fields in a galaxy far, far away. Because of the time it takes light to travel such immense distances, astrophysicists observe cosmologically distant magnetic fields as they were 4.6 billion years ago. The new observations provide hints at how magnetic fields have grown into galactic-sized structures since the beginning of the universe.

Photo: Sui Ann Mao

Sui Ann Mao

Photo: Ellen Zweibel

Ellen Zweibel

Like the humble refrigerator magnet, astronomical objects such as galaxies, stars, and even our own Earth have magnetic fields that attract and repel other magnets and electrically charged matter. Understanding magnetic fields is essential to understanding fundamental questions about the universe. Among other things, magnetic fields play a crucial role in the processes that form stars out of interstellar gas, determine how stars affect their surroundings, and indicate whether planets may or may not be habitable.

In the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe, there were no magnetic fields in the cosmos. So when and how did magnetic fields arise? Scientists, including Mao’s team, aim to answer the question by observing the strength and organization of magnetic fields in galaxies as far away — and therefore as far back in time — as possible, when the universe was much younger.

“By catching magnetic fields when they’re so young, we can rule out some of the theories of where they come from,” explains Ellen Zweibel, a professor of astronomy and physics at UW–Madison and a co-author of the new study.

Illustration: Light from the distant quasar 7.9 billion light-years away is bent and magnified in this schematic view by the foreground galaxy’s mass 4.6 billion light-years away in a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing.” Sight lines toward images A and B probe different magnetic fields and gas conditions through different parts of the lensing galaxy.

Light from the distant quasar is bent and magnified in this schematic view by the foreground galaxy’s mass in a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing.” Sight lines toward images A and B probe different magnetic fields and gas conditions through different parts of the lensing galaxy. Image courtesy of Sui Ann Mao

Astronomers had measured large, well-ordered magnetic fields in our own Milky Way and in galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood before. But Mao’s team is the first to successfully measure the magnetic field structure of a galaxy so distant in both space and time, pushing the boundaries of what’s capable with current radio telescope technology and analysis techniques. With the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array, a collection of 27 radio telescopes in New Mexico arranged to function together as a single enormous telescope, Mao observed a distant galaxy with a specific configuration optimal for measuring the galaxy’s magnetic fields.

Photo: Very Large Array radio telescopes

The National Radio Astronomy Obesrvatory’s Very Large Array, a collection of 27 radio telescopes in New Mexico arranged to function together as a single enormous telescope. Photo: Dave Finley, courtesy of NRAO/AUI

The galaxy lies in front of a quasar, one of the brightest objects in the sky. The light from the quasar appears as two distinct images around the foreground galaxy, bent and magnified by the galaxy’s mass in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Mao and her team measured how properties of the two images of the quasar differed, affected by the magnetic fields of the galaxy, to determine the strength and organization of those magnetic fields.

“It’s a beautiful experiment,” Zweibel says of Mao’s experimental design.

Zweibel explains that the setup eliminates the need to account for how looking through different parts of the Milky Way would affect the observations. Since the two views of the quasar are observed along two very close lines of sight through the Milky Way, they are affected in the same way and can be compared.

Mao first proposed this experiment to Zweibel when she was a postdoctoral scientist at UW–Madison. She says Madison is a stimulating environment for studying and discussing magnetic fields in the universe because of a critical mass of scientists researching the phenomenon and the annual Midwest Magnetic Fields Workshop that takes place in Madison.

“Madison is the magnetic fields capital of the USA — it’s the place to go if you want to study magnetism,” says Mao.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

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