UW-Madison scientists have created a tool to improve the efficiency of microbial research, a quickly growing field that could lead to new medical therapies.

Interest in microbial interactions has risen in recent decades as clinical studies have illuminated the complex relationships between human health and colonies of microbes within the body. More than 100 trillion bacteria live in the human gut alone, and these microbes are involved with numerous diseases including inflammatory disorders, cancers, depression and diabetes.

The tool’s lead inventors, Ophelia Venturelli and Philip Romero, are both researchers in the university’s biochemistry department and have applied for a patent on their invention. In the meantime, WARF is looking for commercial partners to aid in the development process.

Late last year, their team was announced as winners of the WARF Innovation Award, which came with a $10,000 cash prize.

WARF says the research tool could “add a key technology” to the research industry. Sequencing tools were valued at $885 million in 2018 and are expected to hit $2 billion by 2023, according to the info sheet. Plus, WARF says human microbiome-based drugs are expected to be worth $9.3 billion in 2024.

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