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UW–Madison and WARF again rank high in patents

June 4, 2019 By David Tenenbaum
Photo: Hoffman holding material in tweezers

UW–Madison scientist Lynn Allen Hoffman founded Stratatech Corp. to pursue her patented invention: a method to produce skin-like material for skin grafts and other medical purposes. Photo: Jeff Miller

A survey of the world’s top universities placed the University of Wisconsin–Madison as the seventh-greatest source of U.S. patents. The ranking, by the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association, attests to UW–Madison’s continued success in the granting of “utility” patents for inventions in a broad range of fields, says Norman Drinkwater, interim vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

The 157 patents issued in 2018 to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for UW–Madison inventions included, for instance, a genetic sequence from a wheat virus that could enable production of multiple proteins from a single strand of messenger RNA, invented by plant pathologist Aurelie Rakotondrafara and collaborator Jincan Zhang.

“Outstanding faculty, staff and student researchers at UW–Madison, along with a longstanding strong and collaborative partnership with WARF, allow UW–Madison to consistently excel in making discoveries and patenting inventions that benefit humankind across Wisconsin and the world,” says Drinkwater. “UW–Madison is a world class research institution and we take pride in that. But for many researchers, providing the public with access to their inventions is the most rewarding benefit of their hard work. That is the Wisconsin Idea.”

Photo: Aurelie standing in front of lab bench

UW–Madison plant pathologist Aurelie Rakotondrafara Photo: Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

“An innovative university is a competitive university,” says Erik Iverson, WARF’s managing director. “Before new technology can improve a crop, or a drug can save a life, a granted patent is often the first step on the path to development. This report signals that the near-century long partnership of WARF and UW–Madison is vibrant and enduring.”

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives hundreds of thousands of utility patent applications every year from around the world, and many will fail in the process,” says Michael Falk, who heads WARF’s intellectual property division. “This report reflects both the exceptional quality of innovation on our campus and WARF’s expertise at navigating challenges to the advantage of the entire university.”

Long recognized as a powerhouse in science, medicine and engineering, UW–Madison ranked sixth in total research expenditures among U.S. universities in 2017.

WARF, founded in 1925, is the nation’s first organization devoted to obtaining and licensing patents for university research.