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Mar 22, 201811:44 AMOpen Mic

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UW-industry partnerships yield better solutions

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Wisconsin agriculture is making big news. As we embark on new global partnerships and get set to break fresh ground, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Wisconsin Idea. One of the principles of this idea is that university accomplishments can change lives across our state and have an impact on society.

As the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and as a co-founder of an innovative processed meat business who is currently building a new company with UW technology, we believe a key to successfully living the Wisconsin Idea is to link new knowledge with the problems that industry and communities want to solve.

This is especially important in agriculture. Roughly one in nine people working in Wisconsin holds a job related to agriculture, including farmers and their employees, service providers like veterinarians and fuel suppliers, and workers in related businesses like food processing. In addition to those working in agricultural sectors, all of us eat, and we expect our food to be safe, nutritious, and delicious with environmentally responsible production.

In order to achieve these objectives, industry and universities need each other. Businesses need the new discoveries generated in university labs, and university scientists need the practical challenges and perspectives from the marketplace to inspire and inform their research. Industry is always asking: How do we leverage our product stream to best serve consumer needs and deliver more value? University researchers are always asking: How does the natural world work, and can we apply what we learn about it to improve health, agriculture, and businesses? These are mutually beneficial conditions that create strong partnerships to drive innovation.

Innovation, in our view, is different from discovery and invention. We define innovation as the implementation of something new and beneficial, making an invention available in the marketplace. It’s the commercialization of entrepreneurial science, which is at the root of the Wisconsin Idea. More than a century ago, CALS researchers and industry partners fought rickets with vitamin D-fortified foods, and ensured consistent quality of Wisconsin milk with the Babcock butterfat test.

That brings us to the exciting news about Ab E Discovery — a young company that grew out of University of Wisconsin innovation. The company is developing state-of-the-art nutrition technologies that apply science to key challenges, including replacing antibiotics and improving animal health.

To take one of these technologies — an egg antibody focused on supporting animals’ gut health, and thereby growth and welfare — a step further, Ab E Discovery recently formed a global in-licensing agreement with Elanco Animal Heath, a division of Eli Lilly and Co. The company will also break fresh ground this month on a manufacturing facility in Waterloo. The 25,000-square-foot facility will employ about 20 production scientists and engineers in Jefferson County.


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