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Patent issued to U-Iowa for mutant chicken pox virus

The University of Iowa Research Foundation has been issued a patent for the first-known mutant chicken pox virus. The initial discovery was made in 1998 by Charles Grose, M.D., UI professor of pediatrics and director of the UI Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Richard Santos, M.D., Ph.D., a graduate of the UI Medical Scientist Training Program and now a resident in internal medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. The U.S. Patent 6,528,066 was issued on March 4.

The patent is useful for the potential development of a new diagnostic test for chicken pox, Grose said. The current chicken pox diagnostic test has been available since 1984 and cannot screen for the mutant form. Until Grose and Santos' finding, chicken pox was thought to be the same strain worldwide.

"The patent will help allow us to make an improved test which will detect all currently known forms of chicken pox -- the mutant form and the most commonly known form," Grose said. "It is generally difficult to patent a living organism such as a virus or a bacteria. The criteria include that there be no precedence for the finding and that it was not anticipated."

Chicken pox diagnostic tests are not routinely used in healthy people. The disease is noted and allowed to run its course. However, in children with existing serious illnesses such as cancer, any signs of infection are analyzed. If these children are found to have a verified case of chicken pox, they receive intravenous drugs to stop chicken pox from further developing.

Grose and Santos became involved in the mutant chicken pox investigation when a laboratory in Minnesota reported a child with cancer whose chicken pox resembled typical chicken pox but which did not test positive through the diagnostic test. The sample was sent to Grose's laboratory, where he and Santos analyzed it and found that one of the 70 genes in the virus had mutated. They later published their findings in the September 1998 i
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Contact: Becky Soglin
becky-soglin@uiowa.edu
319-335-6660
University of Iowa
16-Apr-2003


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