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October 19, 2018

Skala, Turng win WARF Innovation Awards

College of Engineering faculty members Melissa Skala and Lih-Sheng (Tom) Turng are the recipients of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s 2018-19 Innovation Awards in recognition of their inventions.

The $10,000 awards represent the top invention disclosures—as judged by an independent panel—out of the approximately 400 submitted to WARF over the past 12 months.

Skala, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and a principal investigator at the Morgridge Institute for Research (MIR), and Alex Walsh, an assistant scientist at MIR, earned the honor for their work on a non-invasive method to sort cancer immunotherapy cells. Their efforts could bolster a cutting-edge cancer treatment called CAR T therapy, in which a patient’s own T cells are removed and modified outside the body. Skala and Walsh’s technology represents an improved way to screen and sort the useful cells prior to reinjection into the patient.

Turng, the Kuo K. and Cindy F. Wang Professor and a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and former postdoctoral researcher Haoyang Mi won for creating artificial vascular grafts that mimic native blood vessels. Their small-diameter grafts reduce the threat of blood clots and could bolster treatments of cardiovascular diseases.

Engineering faculty were also among the finalists.

Zongfu Yu, Dugald C. Jackson Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Yixuan Tan and Xingze Wang of Yu’s Photonics Lab were finalists for their machine vision system that could help autonomous vehicles “see” around corners.

John Yin, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, was a finalist for a target-guided peptide synthesis method that could also accelerate drug development.