Venturelli Receives 2023 Early Career Innovator Award

Photo of Ophelia S. Venturelli
Assistant professor Ophelia Venturelli.

The Early Career Innovator Award, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE), recognized four early career faculty members for engaging in technology transfer and commercialization activities: Ophelia Venturelli (Department of Biochemistry), Guelay Bilen-Rosas (School of Medicine and Public Health), Quanyin Hu (School of Pharmacy), and Bhuvana Krishnaswamy (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering).

“Throughout its history, UW–Madison researchers have produced transformative discoveries within a culture that fosters bringing those discoveries to the market,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Recognizing early career faculty for their contributions to the commercialization of technology out of UW-Madison is a great way to celebrate our historical achievements in entrepreneurship while also looking forward to the promise of future innovation to come from the efforts of faculty such as these awardees.”

Venturelli seeks to elucidate the molecular and ecological design principles of microbial communities using tools from systems and synthetic biology. The tools she creates will enable companies and academic researchers to better understand the complicated ecosystem microbial communities create for each other. These technologies have broad applicability in human health, animal health, sustainability, agriculture, and other industries.

“We are passionate about making fundamental advances in our ability to predict and design the microbiome to our benefit, Venturelli says. “We aim to design microbiomes with tailored functions and interventions that can precisely steer these complex systems to desired states. To achieve these goals, we combine computational modeling, high-throughput experiments and synthetic biology.”

The awardees were selected by OVCRGE from a list of finalists provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Awardees receive $50K in funding.

“These awardees and their inventions present exciting solutions to known important problems,” Ackerman says. “These innovators are committed to the Wisconsin Idea by translating scientific findings into applications, products and services that can change the world.”

Read the full announcement from OVCRGE to learn more about this year’s award recipients.