Montana State University

MSU researchers develop six new biotechnologies

November 8, 2012 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed six new biotechnologies that have implications for battling bacterial infections and boosting vaccine efficacy, baking a better loaf of bread, detecting harmful microbes, preventing brucellosis, fighting neurological and inflammatory diseases, and developing bacterial vaccines.

The technologies are available for licensing to interested companies and entrepreneurs.

The first technology involves recasting the known and marketed antifungal pharmaceutical Amphotericin B for vaccine or therapeutic treatment of bacterial infections.

According to research in MSU's Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, the compound has shown an ability to counter bacterial infections and enhance vaccine responses by stimulating specific immune cells in the body. The research has shown that stimulation of the immune system by Amphotericin B represents a breakthrough in how this drug is currently used and opens up new opportunities for its use.

The second technology is a discovery of genetic variations in wheat that produce bread dough that can be stretched further without rupturing. This discovery by researchers in MSU's College of Agriculture may lead to improved pizza dough, bread sticks, artisan loaves and many other common bread products.

The third technology is a device that can greatly concentrate the amount of microbes in a fluid sample, which potentially allows for accurate detection of harmful microbes in water, blood, fuel and other liquid environments. The system discovered in the Department of Physics represents an exponential improvement over current methods.

The invention has been extended to include a sensor that can indicate the number of microbes present and the type of microbes in the sample.

The fourth technology is a series of vaccines for livestock or humans to fight the various strains of brucellosis. Brucellosis is one of the most common among the group of animal diseases that also poses a danger to humans, with 500,000 new cases diagnosed in humans worldwide each year, almost exclusively in the under-developed world.

In North America, brucellosis poses a particular challenge in the greater Yellowstone region, where wild game herds are known to carry the disease. Current brucellosis vaccines lack efficacy and may be dangerous for handling by people.

The fifth technology involves the discovery of compounds to treat inflammatory and neurological disorders. In screening of 10,000 small molecules, researchers in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases discovered a new class of compounds with potential drug applications for such disorders.

In a paper published in the journal Molecular Pharmacology, the investigators describe these molecules as highly potent agents that inhibit proteins involved in inflammatory and neurological disorders. The proteins, known as kinase enzymes, have been heavily studied in recent years for their role in these diseases as well as cancer and diabetes.

Of the 10,000 molecules, the researchers found four that strongly bind to and inhibit these enzymes. Subsequent studies in mice confirmed that the molecules reduce inflammation and suppress swelling.

The sixth technology offers a new way for making bacterial vaccines. Researchers in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases have developed an improved method to make bacterial vaccines by lowering the virulence of bacteria through genetic manipulation.

The investigators found they can genetically manipulate the bacteria in ways that reduce the virulence of live bacteria to a level where it triggers an immune response without causing an infection. The method can be applied to a broad range of pathogenic bacteria to provide faster development of more robust and optimized vaccines against bacterial infections.

MSU currently has 203 licenses on technologies developed by faculty. Of those, 81 licenses are with Montana companies.

For more information contact Nick Zelver, MSU Office of Technology Transfer,, (406) 994-7706.