Researcher Awarded Patent For System To Fight Multiple Diseases

St. Louis, April 13, 1999 -- After waiting for nearly 18 years, Roy Curtiss III, Ph.D., George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, was granted a United States patent for his genetically engineered bacterial antigen delivery system March 30, 1999.

The patent, "Recombinant Avirulent Bacterial Antigen Delivery System," is number 5, 888, 799. It was originally filed on October 22, 1981. Washington University and the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) will share patent income equally from any vaccine marketed to combat any bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic disease using Curtiss' concept.

Curtiss developed the system while on the faculty of UAB in the late 1970s and early 1980s and at Washington University since 1983. The patent covers composition, manufacture and use of live attenuated, or weakened, derivatives of disease-causing bacteria genetically engineered to express foreign antigens, or proteins, in a vaccine; the vaccine then homes in on lymph tissue in an individual to induce immune responses against the foreign antigens.

Curtiss conceived the initial ideas for the patent in the late 1970s and early 1980s when he was using gene cloning to express protein antigens from streptococcal bacteria in E. coli. One purpose of these studies was to develop a recombinant vaccine that would induce anti-streptococcal immunity in an individual after taking an oral vaccine.

In 1981, when Curtiss filed the patent application, introducing genes from one pathogen into another was not possible because such gene cloning was prohibited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Research. Curtiss helped draft the guidelines in the 1970s as an original member of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee. Although international patents on this technology first were granted in 1989, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had ru

Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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