CALS Researcher Gets ‘Distinguished’ Post

Michael Sussman, professor of biochemistry, is the first recipient of the Salm-Bray Distinguished Chair at UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

This chair recognizes and rewards a faculty member who has cross-disciplinary scholarship and collaboration in the area of human or animal health, and who advances the impact of agriculture. Sussman will hold the five-year appointment through June 30, 2027.

The Salm-Bray Distinguished Chair was established by Christopher and Susan Salm, both alumni of CALS. After leaving Madison, the Salms went on to complete their graduate studies and take roles in industry and academia. In 2004 Chris co-founded Salm Partners, LLC, a company that uses unique technologies to produce ready-to-eat sausages and hot dogs. In 2015, he co-founded Ab E Discovery, LLC, a biotechnology company to commercialize university research discoveries. Salm will be inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame on Oct. 13.

The name of the chair also honors the legacy of the late Robert Bray, a faculty member in the meat and animal science department from 1941 to 1984, who was instrumental in training and inspiring students and staff during his tenure. With this distinguished chair, the Salms’ aim is to support a collaborative thinker with an aptitude for bringing together the deep expertise found in UW-Madison’s research community to develop innovations that can be applied for the betterment of humanity.

Sussman’s research program is known for uncovering impactful discoveries in plant and animal sciences. He has published on the signaling networks involved in how plants respond to environmental stressors. With a collaborator, he’s sought to identify blood-borne biomarkers for colon cancer. More recently, he’s been involved in collaborative efforts to study aspects of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sussman was the longtime director of the university’s Biotechnology Center. He has served as a governor’s appointee to the Wisconsin Biofuels Consortium and the Wisconsin Technology Council. He co-founded NimbleGen Systems Inc. (now Roche-NimbleGen), whose products allow researchers to quickly and affordably analyze DNA. More recently, he helped co-found an early-stage company called Immuto Scientific, which uses a novel technique to analyze the structure of proteins and other biomolecules.