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Patents Demonstrate Advances in Neurological Diseases and Nuclear Medicine
Valerie Berthelier, Assistant Professor and Director of the Conformational Diseases and Therapeutics Research lab, and George W. Kabalka, PhD, Robert H. Cole Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience, Director of Basic Science Research in Radiology, received patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for extraordinary medical research.
Dr. Berthelier developed new methods to study particular inherited neurological disorders, including Huntington’s disease. The invention will help researchers analyze specific proteins known to be associated with these devastating disorders and could lead to the development of new treatments or cures. Analogously to the situation in Alzheimer’s disease, in Huntington’s disease and seven other polyglutamine disorders, the disease protein forms insoluble protein aggregates that are toxic to neurons.
"Due to this development, we were able to identify a small number of promising compounds that affect protein aggregate formation," said Dr. Berthelier.
Dr. Kabalka’s patent addresses new methods for incorporating short-lived radioisotopes in molecules of use in nuclear medicine and biology. Short-lived radioisotopes are required by new nuclear medicine imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and single photon tomography.
"The methods described in the patent offer entirely new approaches to preparing radiopharmaceuticals for use in nuclear medicine imaging. The advantages of the new methodology are that the pharmaceutical precursors have shelf lives of years and can be used in radiopharmacy ‘kits’ that provide for simple purification of the final pharmaceutical product," said Dr. Kabalka.
Patents are awarded for unique technologies and ideas and serve to protect inventions that can benefit society. The process for receiving a patent is lengthy and difficult: fewer than 10 percent of the discoveries made at UT are eventually granted patents from the USPTO.
Drs. Berthelier and Kabalka are among 20 Knoxville-area UT researchers who were honored recently by the UT Research Foundation (UTRF) for receiving patents from the USPTO on discoveries that could transform the lives of people in Tennessee and the nation. The researchers achieved a total of 15 patents for their intellectual properties over the course of 2007 and 2008.
UTRF President and CEO Fred Tompkins says the scientists responsible for the research that makes it through this process are among the most innovative and dedicated individuals in the university system. "Awarded patents are an indication of the innovative people and programs at the university," Tompkins said.
Not only do patents benefit the university through external funding, but they also have the potential to stimulate economic development through the generation of licensing revenues, which can be the basis for starting new companies.
In addition to Drs. Berthelier and Kabalka, 11 researchers from UT Knoxville and seven researchers from the UT Institute of Agriculture were honored by UTRF.
UTRF helps inventors at UT turn their ideas and discoveries into products and services that benefit society. In addition to supporting the university research enterprise and commercializing the resulting inventions, UTRF also supports entrepreneurship as well as state and regional economic development efforts. UTRF serves all seven of the UT campuses and institutes across the state. For more information, visit http://utrf.tennessee.edu.
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