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UW-Madison Animal Science Prof Mark Cook Dies
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 09/12/2017

A long-time professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose research yielded advances in human health and food production had died of cancer. Mark Cook passed away at his home on Saturday at the age of 61.

Cook earned a Ph.D. at Louisiana State University in 1982 while studying the relationship between pathogens, nutrition and the poultry immune system. At the UW, his wide-ranging interests and unstoppable curiosity found full expression in the entrepreneurial activity he pursued with a passion to make a difference in the world.

With more than 40 patents, three startup companies and a strong record of involvement in university initiatives, Cook maintained a dedication to teaching that extended to his department's introductory course, Animal Science 101.

"Mark was a distinguished scientist, with a remarkable commitment to innovation and technology transfer," says College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn VandenBosch. "His work embodied the Wisconsin Idea, seeking advances and solutions in the areas of health and agriculture. He was also a man of integrity, who felt a deep sense of service and commitment to his students, colleagues and the university."

Colleagues say Cook was well-known in the poultry industry. Just two years ago, he helped form Ab E Discovery advance the finding that chickens can produce a protein that blocks a signal used by bacteria to shut down the host immune system. The protein is grown in eggs and sprayed on animal feed to replace antibiotics. More recently, his interest in novel animal byproducts spawned an effort to develop an oil used by birds to preen their feathers as a fish food additive.

Cook's biggest commercial success was work on conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that became a dietary supplement marketed for reducing body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. He developed CLA in the 1990s in conjunction with Michael Pariza, then a professor of food microbiology and toxicology. The alliance grew quickly, based on the accessibility that seemed a Cook hallmark.

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