Montana State University

MSU offers six new biomedical technologies for licensing

August 17, 2010 -- MSU News Service


A plant commonly known as Fireweed yielded an extract that's used in a new biomedical technology developed at Montana State University. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed six new biomedical technologies that could have applications for treating antibiotic resistant infections, fungal infections and viral infections; boosting humans' innate immunity and improving scientists' ability to study such compounds.

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

The first technology involves an existing clinical drug that was discovered to act as a potent trigger of immune cells. In this role, it could enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus aureus, particularly antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

The drug also shows promise in enhancing the effectiveness of vaccines, particularly those administered to the lungs. The drug is fully approved and commercially available and could be used as a stand-alone therapy or used in combination with other existing antibiotics or vaccines to increase their value. A patent is pending, and the research is ongoing.

The second technology is an extract from a plant commonly known as Fireweed. Epilobium angustifolium produces a compound, oenothein B, which is recognized for its antioxidant, antitumor, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Until now, only limited evidence showed that this compound enhances innate immunity.

MSU research discovered the extract has the potential to bolster the human immune system by activating a number of mechanisms of important disease-fighting cells in the body, phagocytes. Phagocytes have the ability to envelop and devour harmful bacteria, parasites and other substances, and destroy them through a variety of means.

Potential applications of the extract include increasing immunity during bio-warfare threats, flu epidemics, or for travelers who will be exposed to endemic diseases. Benefits of the extract include its potential to rapidly trigger the immune system, its potential for low toxicity, and that it is a well-studied compound. A patent is pending and a publication is available. The research is ongoing.

The third technology is a suite of naturally derived, low to non-toxic peptides showing promise as antifungals against a broad range of fungal and yeast infections. A peptide is made of one or more amino acids linked together. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Yeast can cause extremely unpleasant infections in the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach and urinary tract. These infections are difficult to treat and can be life threatening, particularly in people whose immune system is compromised from HIV or other diseases.

Current treatments are limited in their effectiveness because of their toxicity and because they do not necessarily kill the offending organism. MSU's research has discovered a suite of peptides that can be effective at low doses in completely killing a range of yeast and fungal infections.

These peptides have potential in products such as an oral rinse to treat thrush, topical cream for vaginitis, or antifungal coatings for medical implants. Additionally, these compounds may be useful for treating candidiasis in HIV or cancer patients with weak immune systems. Patents have been issued on the technology.

The fourth technology is an inexpensive way to dramatically improve mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used by scientists worldwide.

Mass spectrometry is a mainstay for the identification and characterization of molecules in everything from crude oil to biomedical compounds. Essentially, a mass spectrometer is a scale that weighs molecules. Knowing a molecule's weight is important in identifying it.

One widespread use of mass spectrometers -- devices that can be as big as a chest freezer -- is in helping scientists identify proteins, determine what they're made of, and how they're put together by revealing their elemental composition. Mass spectrometers have become a vital tool for modern biology and medicine.

MSU research discovered a way to increase the accuracy, resolution, and sensitivity of the most common type of mass spectrometer, known as time-of-flight (TOF) mass analyzers. The MSU solution can be implemented into existing mass spectrometers or it could be incorporated into the next generation of devices. MSU has a patent pending on the technology and has made it available for licensing.

The fifth technology is a compound derived from a popular fruit-based nutritional supplement. It has a unique ability to protect against influenza, reestablish immunity in compromised patients and boost immunity in people who could be exposed to biowarfare agents or localized endemic diseases. The compound is fast-working and non-toxic. MSU has a patent pending on the technology.

The sixth technology is also based on compounds that are often used as a dietary supplement. These compounds are easily derived from common food plants, such as apple peels, pomegranates, grapes and tea. MSU researchers have discovered that the compound shows strong potential for preventing and treating a range of viral infections, because it blocks the attachment of viruses to cells and stimulates an anti-viral response in the cell. These compounds could be used as stand-alone treatment to prevent virus infections, or as a combination therapy to enhance existing antiviral therapies. MSU has a patent pending on this technology.

Interested companies and entrepreneurs can license the new technologies by contacting Nick Zelver with the MSU Technology Transfer Office at (406) 994-7868, http://tto.montana.edu or by e-mail at nzelver@montana.edu . MSU requests that interest be expressed in writing by Sept. 10, 2010.

MSU currently has 191 licenses on technologies developed by faculty. Of those, 109 licenses are with Montana companies.

Evelyn Boswell at (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu