Petri, Mann named inventors of the
By Charlotte Crystal
Microbiologists William Petri and
Barbara Mann have been named joint recipients of the 2003 Edlich-Henderson
Inventor of the Year Award by the University
of Virginia Patent Foundation.
professor of medicine, microbiology and pathology, and Mann, associate
professor of medicine and microbiology, were recognized for their
collaborative work in developing a clinical test to diagnose amoebiasis,
an intestinal infection that is a leading cause of death in children
in developing countries.
selection committee chose Bill Petri and Barb Mann as this years
award winners for two main reasons, said Robert S. MacWright,
executive director of the U.Va. Patent Foundation. First,
their diagnostic test has proved to be important in detecting
and treating a debilitating childrens disease. And second,
their story is a perfect example of how faculty researchers can
use the patenting and licensing processes to bring the fruits
of their research to the public while still focusing on their
research. The researchers work will enable health
care workers to treat children and adults suffering from diarrhea
and dysentery by identifying the infecting agent. Until Petri
and Mann developed a relatively easy-to-use, inexpensive (less
than $10 each) kit, there was no easy way to specifically identify
the Entamoeba histolytica organism.
developing three versions of the test kit each one more
sensitive and simple to use than the one before the researchers
plan to develop a dip stick test that can tell in minutes whether
the E. histolytica organism is present.
Until William Petri and Barbara Mann developed their diagnostic
kit, there was no easy way to specifically diagnose amoebiasis,
an intestinal infection that is a leading cause of death in
children in developing countries.
More on their research
was drawn to the world of intestinal disease in the1980s, when
he heard tropical diseases described as the great neglected
diseases of the 20th century, because they affected poor
people living in the developing world, rather than affluent Americans.
A lecture by Dr. Richard Guerrant, professor of medicine and head
of the Division of Geographic and International Medicine, who
lectured Petris Medical School class on tropical medicine,
also captured his imagination. Dick [Guerrant] is charismatic,
he made an impression on me, Petri said. He talked
about kids dying young. How could you not care about that?
and Mann, who have known each other since graduate school at U.Va.,
have worked together since 1989, when Petri brought Mann back
to the University to collaborate on research into the intestinal
parasite E. histolytica.
and Mann are generous in sharing the credit for their work. In
particular, they note the contributions of U.Va. colleagues William
Sutherland, research professor of cell biology, who helped them
develop the monoclonal antibodies used in their research; and
Martin Chapman, professor of medicine, who showed them how to
work with monoclonal antibodies. Other scientists and units at
the U.Va., Virginia Tech and Johns Hopkins have contributed as
their collaboration began, the pair has secured four joint patents
for their work. Mann holds a total of five patents; Petri a total