Montana State University

MSU technologies to strengthen immunity available for licensing

February 24, 2009 -- From MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Three new biotechnologies to strengthen the human immune system are now available for licensing from Montana State University.

Interested companies and entrepreneurs can license them by contacting Nick Zelver with the MSU Technology Transfer Office at (406) 994-7868, or They should express their interest in writing by Monday, March 2.

The technologies could be used to enhance immunity against a broad range of pathogens or be used as adjuvants to boost the effectiveness of a vaccine, Zelver said. They could rapidly trigger immunity to withstand flu epidemics and biowarfare agents. They could strengthen the immunity of people traveling to areas with endemic diseases, like Ebola. One of the technologies could induce the body's defense mechanisms against cancerous tumors.

The new technologies were developed by researchers in MSU's Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology. The prickly pear cactus is the source of one of the new technologies. The cactus is known for its nutritional properties. Mark Quinn screened the plant material and found molecules with specific properties for inducing immunity, Zelver said.

Another of the technologies, this one developed by Mark Jutila, came from Funtumia elastica tree bark, also called Yamoa. Yamoa is marketed and sold as a dietary supplement, but it is also used to treat respiratory ailments like asthma and hay fever. Jutila found that infected mice showed a rapid reduction of bacteria following therapeutic treatment with Yamoa.

The third technology, developed by Quinn, is a family of synthetic molecules that can induce a Tumor Necrosis Factor. These are believed to be unique molecules for inducing the Tumor Necrosis Factor.

The VMB department conducts research in three broad areas, one of those being the regulation of immunity in human and animal diseases. Another area is molecular and genetic studies of animal and disease biology. The third is understanding the molecular pathways of communication between disease-causing organisms or viruses and their host.

MSU has 165 active technology licenses so far, Zelver said. Of those, 97 are with Montana companies. To access those and other MSU technologies, visit

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or