Ask Abe: WARF

An Alum

How many patents does WARF hold?


This question, the folks at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) tell me, doesn’t have an exact answer, so the best we can do is approximate. WARF has acquired more than 3,000 U.S. patents on UW–Madison inventions and discoveries, but if you extend the query to other countries, then “the number goes up but gets much messier,” according to Chris Najdowski ’96, a technical editor at WARF. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation was incorporated in 1925 in an effort to help take UW inventions to market. Biochemistry professor Harry Steenbock 1908, MS1910, PhD1916 had discovered that he could enrich foods with Vitamin D by irradiating them with ultraviolet light. WARF helped him license the process to Quaker Oats in February 1927, which later passed to pharmaceutical companies and producers of bread and milk. Proceeds from the royalties funded further UW research. Over the years, WARF has secured patents on a wide variety of UW inventions: warfarin (a blood thinner and rat poison), the UW Solution (a liquid in which to store organs on their way to transplanting), MRI innovations, and a computing circuit that was used in most smart phones. Each year, WARF secures about 60 more licensing agreements for the UW.