August, 2010Karl Klose, director of The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) South Texas Center Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID), and Bernard Arulanandam, associate dean of research for scientific innovation in the UTSA College of Sciences, have been granted a U.S. patent for developing a process to create a vaccine for the deadly tularemia infection.
Tularemia, caused by the highly infectious bacterium Francisella tularensis, can cause serious disease in humans. F. tularensis is carried primarily by animals such as rabbits and rarely causes human infections, but when breathed in through the lungs, the disease can be fatal. Because of this, F. tularensis is considered a potential bioweapon.
“We developed what is called a ‘live attenuated vaccine,’ by removing Francisella’s IglD gene, which is critical for the bacteria to be able to survive and grow inside infected cells,” said Klose. “In a series of studies over three years, we characterized the IglD gene, knocked it out, and observed that the crippled bacterium was able to act as an effective vaccine by inducing an immune response without causing tularemia. This research is a promising advance in our attempts to develop a vaccine against this potential bioweapon.”
F. tularensis is one of many organisms the researchers in the STCEID are investigating with an eye for vaccine development. Researchers are also working on vaccines for Valley Fever, Lyme disease and anthrax.
As UTSA continues to move toward Tier One research status, it has developed an increased focus on innovation, commercialization and technology transfer.
“Last year, UTSA signed its first commercial license to develop a chlamydia vaccine with pharmaceutical company Merck based on research from our South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio,” said Arulanandam. “We are hopeful that the science behind this new patent for Francisella will spur further insight into the creation of an effective vaccine against this pathogen.”
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About the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases
The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) focuses on research in molecular microbiology, immunology, medical mycology, virology, microbial genomics, vaccine development and biodefense. In addition, the Center provides hands-on training to undergraduate and graduate students who intend to pursue careers in science and technology. Working with the College of Sciences’ Department of Biology, center faculty have established an undergraduate academic track in microbiology, a master’s program in biology and biotechnology and a Ph.D. program in cell and molecular biology. To learn more about the Center, visit http://stceid.utsa.edu/.
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and the second 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 nearly 29,000 students in 64 bachelor’s, 49 master’s and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond. More information online at www.utsa.edu/today.