13 Oct Medical College of Wisconsin researcher gets national defense appointment
Harry Whelan has become the first Medical College of Wisconsin researcher to be appointed to the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Whelan, a professor of neurology and director of the college’s hyperbaric medicine unit, has signed a two-year contract at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy. One of 10 researchers from around the country receiving the appointment, he will be spending approximately 40 percent of his time there, putting his efforts toward biotechnology defense policy.
“He’s an M.D. by background and brings a fresh focus with him,” said Kyle Dunn, a research associate for the defense university. “He’s been very well-received … everyone has been happy with his work.”
One of Whelan’s chief areas of research is the use of LEDs — small electric light sources — to treat wounds and diseases. Over 15 years, he has experimented with LEDs to activate cancer-killing drugs, stimulate human growth, and provide infrared protection against chemical agents. His research has received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and in 2000 he was inducted into the NASA Space Technology Hall of Fame.
“[Whelan] is known internationally for his LED research,” said Toranj Marphetia, associate director of public affairs for the Medical College of Wisconsin.
According to Marphetia, the LED technology that has been developed in the college has been used for the treatment of cancer patients undergoing bone-marrow transplants and is used by special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for to treat tissue injuries. Other possible applications being explored include treatment of neurological diseases and countering the effects of weightlessness in space, such as muscle atrophy and deficient immune systems.
Whelan’s current project focuses on the issue of innate immunities. The project’s goal is to prepare the biological defenses of the body, particularly in response to chemical weapons such as anthrax. It will be Whelan’s goal to put together a panel of experts to meet and discuss the project, as well as composing reports to determine what is possible.
“The goal here is to bring in number-one experts in the immunity field from all over the world,” Dunn said. “It’s not something a lot of people are up-to-date about.”
Whelan’s appointment is seen as a positive sign, for both the college and the NDU. “Any time our faculty gets an award it reflects well on the Medical College,” Marphetia said. “Any research ultimately benefits all mankind.”
Les Chappell is a staff writer for WTN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.