Discovery to Product (D2P) is a major partnership between UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), focused on entrepreneurship and building on a long history of collaboration by the University and WARF to move UW-Madison technology and innovation to market

John Printen presents a drug assay project developed by Dr. Gail Robertson, a UW-Madison professor of neuroscience, to a group of fellow entrepreneurs at a Discovery to Product (D2P) workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 30, 2014. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

John Printen presents a drug assay project developed by Dr. Gail Robertson, a UW-Madison professor of neuroscience, to a group of fellow entrepreneurs at a Discovery to Product (D2P) workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)


The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s research preeminence is demonstrated by a ranking among the top six universities nationwide for federal research funding for nearly three decades.

WARF was the world’s first licensing agency at a public university when it was established in 1925. It has a long and distinguished record of successfully moving technology to market based on patenting and licensing innovations from the university, including:

  •  Hundreds of active commercial licenses for UW–Madison innovations.
  •  More than 50 startups have attracted more than $800 million in investment capital over the last decade alone.
  •  More than $1 billion in grant support for UW–Madison from technology commercialization.
  •  Full-service patenting and licensing shop for innovators at UW–Madison.

At University Research Park, established in 1984, about 70 percent of the companies in the park are linked in some way to UW–Madison. More than 100 companies in 32 buildings employ between 3,500 and 4,000 people, with an estimated annual payroll of almost $250 million. In 2006, the park, directly and indirectly, contributed an estimated $680 million to Wisconsin’s economy.

Despite a long and very successful history of technology transfer, UW–Madison seeks to improve its record and continue to leverage its intellectual resources in the interest of economic development. The advent of D2P promises to help keep Wisconsin on the cutting edge of technology transfer by sustaining the flow of ideas to market.



As a campus-based commercialization program, D2P provides essential resources to early stage projects conceived by UW faculty, staff, or students. D2P provides resources such as mentorship opportunities, potential grant funding, early stage idea validation, and a fully encompassing education around what it means to be a lean startup. These resources are meant to foster innovation on the UW campus and are geared to spark creativity and commercialization efforts in the startup community.


Operating Principles

The following principles guide our operations and decision-making:

We exist to benefit UW-Madison and the State of Wisconsin, which guides all our decisions;

We are lean; built for speed;

We design our approaches with a clear understanding of the needs of our stakeholders;

We serve as a point of contact, which means we must act in partnership with all components of the internal and external entrepreneurial ecosystem.


Success Stories


Our Team

Andrew Richards, Director


(608) 890-0860

Andrew Richards is Director of Discovery to Product (D2P). As director, Richards works with the D2P team and campus community to set and implement strategic plans and programs that facilitate the commercialization of faculty, staff, and student innovation, while also supporting the regional startup ecosystem. Richards previously served as the chief of staff for the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at UW-Madison and as the chief of staff for the UW System President.



Abram Becker, MBA, Mentor-in-Residence

Abram Pic

(608) 515-8398


Abram Becker is a mentor-in-residence at Discovery to Product (D2P), advising pre-commercial life science projects. He has experience in the pharmaceutical sector, market research and strategy. He was most recently vice president of strategy and operations for Evofem Biosciences


David Ertl, Mentor-in-Residence

David Ertl

(608) 772-8990


David Ertl is a product manager and strategist with more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech industry.  After founding a startup while in college, he earned an international MBA and started his career as a financial analyst in Silicon Valley.  He continued his career with IBM in Austin, Texas where he shifted focus from finance into product management and strategy. During his tenure at IBM and Sage Software, David launched and managed software products and portfolios, ranging in size from startup to more than $100 million in revenue. David brings deep practical experiences to his role as mentor at D2P.



Leigh Cagan

Leigh Cagan

Leigh is the chief technology commercialization officer at WARF and has more than 25 years experience in licensing management and technology commercialization at university startups and large and small companies.

Brian Fox


Brian is the associate vice chancellor for research policy and integrity at UW-Madison and a professor of biochemistry. He studies enzymes and catalytic reactions. Federal grants, foundations and industry sponsors fund his research program.

Denise Ney


Denise is a professor of Nutritional Sciences at UW-Madison. Her research focus, as funded by federal grants and foundations, is gastrointestinal physiology, bone health and the nutritional management of the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU). Denise holds a licensed patent for Glycomacropeptide Medical Foods for PKU and conducts research to develop glycomacropeptide food products for the promotion of women’s health