(Blacksburg, Va., May 24, 1999) Jason Todd of Newport News, Va., earned a patent for his Ph.D. degree research even before receiving his degree in wood science from Virginia Tech.
Todd's dissertation research has resulted in a new, low-cost material for purifying proteins, such as to capture antibodies from blood serum or cell cultures. Such antibodies are used in diagnosis and treatment of diseases, as well as testing for drug abuse.
Todd, along with Wolfgang Glasser, professor of wood science in the College of Natural Resources, and Swapan Roy of LigoChem Inc., who received a patent (No. 5,770,712, June 23, 1998) for "Crosslinked hydrogel beads from chitosan," were recognized for their work by Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, Inc. last week.
Chitosan is a modified form of chitin, a structural component in crab and shrimp shells. "So chitosan can be isolated from seafood waste," Todd explains. The material is formed into hydrogel beads, which are mostly water or "a highly swollen polymer network" and used in pharmaceutical separation processes. The beads are coated with "chemical functional groups" or "ligands" that grab or attract the target proteins such as antibodies or antigens.
Chitosan beads are not new. Neither is the process of using beads in separation. "The ligand is a group of atoms that interacts with the target molecule, resulting in attraction. A positively-charged ligand will attract a negatively-charged protein, for example, since opposite charges attract. Other types of interactions, such as hydrophobic interactions, can be used as well.," says Todd.
"The basis of the patent is the way we attach the ligand to the beads," he says.
"We use a spacer arm to separate the ligand from the chitosan molecule. Having
the space between the ligand and the supporting chitosan chain results in better
selectivity -- better control in terms of getting the proteins you want to stick
to your molecular structure without getting the one
Contact: Wolfgang Glasser or Jason Todd