Catalyst grants generate $19 million in funding

University of Wisconsin System regents got an overview Thursday of the work that UW-Milwaukee is doing to help power the region’s economic engine.

Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation and director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, and Jessica Silvaggi, the foundation’s senior licensing manager, highlighted university research and innovation for the regents’ Research, Economic Development and Innovation Committee. Regents are meeting at UWM Thursday and Friday.

One key underpinning of the foundation’s efforts are catalyst grants, funded by local foundations and corporations to support promising faculty work. The $4.96 million invested in these grants has already generated $19 million in follow-on funding – work funded at UWM and also investments in startup companies.

“It is important to note that this is all private support,” Silvaggi said.

The foundation, working in various partnerships, has 126 patents issued or pending, and 73 license or option agreements completed to date.

A few examples:

UWM Research Foundation licensee Aqua Metals is partnering with UWM Associate Professor Alan Schwabacher to develop heavy metal sensors for industrial wastewater.

T3 BioScience, led by Ching-Hong Yang, professor of biological sciences at UWM, is developing compounds to protect high-value fruit crops.

Pantherics is developing a pill that could replace asthma inhalers. Alexander Arnold, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Doug Stafford, director of UWM’s Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery, are partnering with Columbia University.

Committee members got a taste of UWM’s student entrepreneurship with samples of dehydrated melon snacks from the Light Fruit Company included in regents’ gift bags. Senior geosciences major James Van Eerden and marketing major Matt Kemper are partners in the enterprise.

Committee members also heard from a panel talking about how internships help UW System build a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Panelists included Griselda Aldrete, president and CEO, Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee; John Daniels, chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady LLP and founder of the MKE Fellows program; Michael Diego Vazquez, a UWM student who has an internship with the Milwaukee County Courts and Payton Wade, a UW-Madison business major and intern with the Milwaukee Bucks community relationships program.

Daniels and Aldrete spoke about how their programs worked to encourage more minority students to take part in internships and Vazquez and Wade shared their experiences as interns. Regent Eve Hall, chair of the committee, asked the students how the internship had helped them. Wade said her work with the Bucks has helped her improve her communications and increased her confidence. “It’s helped me grow academically as well as socially,” Vazquez added.

Hall noted that the UW System is interested in supporting inclusive internship programs, noting that the universities need to provide not only academic support, other assistance such as the internships and entrepreneurship opportunities “so students can be the best they can be.”

Read the original article from the UWM Report here.