UTSA, UT Health Science Center researchers granted patent related to chlamydia

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(May 17, 2011)--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," said Arulanandam. "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 is treacherous because it 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," said Murthy. "Ultimately, that is why we are conducting this research. We want to improve public health. We want to turn the tables on this disease."

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About the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, 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.

About UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and the third largest of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves more than 30,000 students in more than 130 degree programs in the colleges of architecture, business, education and human development, engineering, honors, liberal and fine arts, public policy, and sciences, and the graduate school. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.

About South Texas Technology Management

STTM is the UT technology transfer office serving UTHSC, UTSA and other institutions in the South Texas region. STTM provides leadership in promoting innovation and technology transfer through proactive management of IP, technology development and commercialization to support the missions of member institutions, advance regional economic development and benefit the public. Learn more about STTM and other innovative UT technologies.