Picture of Mark E. Cook

Mark E. Cook

Professor, Dept. Animal Sciences, UW-Madison

Address: 1675 Observatory Dr.
Phone: (608) 262-7747
Office: 1064 Animal Science Building
Email: mcook@wisc.edu

Department Webpage



  • B.S. 1978, Louisiana State University; Microbiology
  • M.S. 1980, Louisiana State University; Poultry Nutrition
  • Ph.D. 1982, Louisiana State University; Poultry Nutrition, minor in Immunology

Research Interests

Pathogen regulation of the immune system

Research Focus

Pathogens, particularly persistent pathogens, have developed a host of mechanisms to down regulate immune defenses so that the pathogen can gain entry into the host. A key mechanism by which pathogens shut down immune defenses is by up-regulating an immune cytokine called interukin-10 (IL-10). IL-10 is often referred to as the “stand down cytokine” since when released it suppresses the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are critical in resisting early stage of infection. IL-10 modifiers are found in viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and helminthes. The board array of pathogens that have develop method to up-regulate IL-10 in microenvironments where they infect provides an opportunity to eliminate the pathogen advantage. Each genus of pathogen seems to have different mechanism for controlling IL-10. In a number of viruses, such as herpes, Epstein Bar, and Orf viruses, the virus genetically encodes its own form of IL-10. In bacteria, protozoan and helminthes, the pathogen is capable of up-regulating IL-10 release using a host of molecular signals. One mechanism to prevent pathogen control of IL-10 is to target the molecular signals that up-regulate IL-10. The problem with this strategy is that the number of signals is very diverse; even within one pathogen species. The other problem in targeting pathogen signals is the likelihood of resistance development. The Cook lab's strategy is direct targeting IL-10 using immunotherapy. They have found an inexpensive way to bind IL-10 in the intestinal lumen that has been shown to control protozoan, helminthes, and select bacterial infection. In commercial trials, they have been able to replace antibiotics in poultry using the anti-IL-10 approach. This immunotherapy provides poultry producer with a way to produce “antibiotic-free poultry” without the current issues facing such approaches. They have launched this technology into a new UW-Madison spin-off called Ab E Discovery of which Mark is a co-founder.

Recent Publications

ARYZTACampbell Soup CompanyConAgra FoodsFonterraGeneral MillsGreat Lakes CheeseHormel Foods (Jennie-O Turkey Store)Johnsonville Foods KelloggKerry Ingredients and FlavoursKraft Foods (Oscar Mayer Foods)Leprino FoodsPepsiCoSchreiber Foods