Texas Business reports: Several UTSA scientists received a patent for treating and preventing a sexually transmitted disease.
UTSA researchers Bernard Arulanandam, Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor in Biology and associate dean of research for scientific innovation, and Ashlesh Murthy, research assistant professor in the College of Sciences Department of Biology and South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and researcher Guangming Zhong, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), received a U.S. patent based on discoveries the trio made while researching Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium that causes chlamydia infections.
The patent protects intellectual property related to chlamydia prevention and treatment.
“Doctors Zhong, Murthy and I have been working for many years to better understand the mechanisms of chlamydia infection and to find ways to prevent or treat the disease,” Arulanandam said in a prepared statement. “When the research was licensed to Merck in 2008 to develop a vaccine, this intellectual property was included.”
Chlamydia is among the world's most common sexually transmitted diseases. In the United States alone, it strikes nearly 3 million people annually and is particularly common in those aged 25 years or younger.
Chlamydia does not always cause symptoms. As a result, many people are unaware they have the disease and do not receive prompt medical treatment. Especially dangerous for women, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies.
The researchers have focused their work on the antigen known as chlamydia protease-like activity factor, or CPAF, initially discovered in the Zhong lab. The CPAF protein is made and secreted by the C. trachomatis bacterium.
In 2008, the University of Texas Board of Regents licensed significant portions of Arulanandam, Zhong and Murthy's CPAF-related work to Merck. The licensing agreement was facilitated by South Texas Technology Management, a regional technology transfer office that supports commercialization activities at the UTHSC, UTSA, University of Texas-Pan American and University of Texas at Brownsville.
Zhong has conducted research for more than 25 years in chlamydia pathogenesis and vaccine development, while Arulanandam has researched vaccine development and mucosal immunity for nearly 15 years. Murthy joined the team in 2001 as the first student in UTSA's doctoral degree program in cellular and molecular biology. He graduated from the program in 2006 and continues to research chlamydia in Arulanandam's UTSA laboratory.
“We are very pleased with this patent,” Murthy said. “Ultimately, that is why we are conducting this research. We want to improve public health. We want to turn the tables on this disease.”
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg.