Foundation Names Inventors Of The Year: Microbiologists William
Petri And Barbara Mann
June 3, 2003 --
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 year’s
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 children’s 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.
though this test may not be highly profitable, “ MacWright
said, “its value should be measured in its benefit to humanity,
rather than in dollars and cents.”
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 dipstick test that can show in minutes whether
the E. histolytica organism is present. Still, challenges facing
the test remain, especially,expanding
distribution through the developing world’s rudimentary health
care systems and reducing the cost of the test to pennies apiece.
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
Petri’s 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?”
won the U.Va. Patent Foundation’s Inventor of the Year Award
in 1997 with colleague Timothy Macdonald, professor and chairman
of the Department of Chemistry, for their work in rehydration and
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
was studying a protein on the surface of E. histolytica, looking
for a way to accurately identify the parasite and guide health care
workers to the correct treatment. Mann cloned the protein so it
could be used to develop high-affinity antibodies, creating an extremely
sensitive, accurate test.
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. Also, they collaborated with Blacksburg-based microbiologists
Tracy Wilkins and David Lyerly, co-founders of TechLab Inc., a small
spin-off company from Wilkins’ research at Virginia Tech,
which makes clinical diagnostic tests for diseases of the human
Barry Farr, U.Va. hospital epidemiologist, helped design the field
research; Rashidul Haque, at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal
Disease Research, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has conducted the field
research for their project for the past 10 years; and Terri Beaty
and Priya Duggal, human geneticists at Johns Hopkins University,
have helped manage the statistics involved in genetics research.
and Mann’s research and collaboration with TechLab in developing
the diagnostic tests has been supported by the U.Va. School of Medicine,
the National Institutes of Health, the federal Small Business Innovation
and Research grant program, the Markey Charitable Trust, the Burroughs-Welcome
Fund and theJeffress Trust.
their collaboration began, the pair has secured four joint patents
– Mann holds a total of five patents; Petri a total of 10.
holds an exclusive license to the patents protecting the intellectual
property involved in the diagnostic kits.
Previous U.Va. Patent Foundation Inventor of the Year Award winners
– Dr. Joel Linden, professor of cardiovascular medicine, molecular
physiology and biological physics, for his work in developing a
family of anti-inflammatory compounds
-- Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, a materials scientist and University
Professor of Applied Science, for her research and six patented
inventions relating to electrical brushes used in electrical motors
-- Ronald P. Taylor, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics
and a member of the Beirne Carter Immunology Center, for inventions
related to his research into treatments for diseases caused by pathogens
in the bloodstream.
Inventor of the Year Award was the brainchild of Dr. Richard Edlich,
U.Va. professor emeritus and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Long-Term
Effects of Medical Implants. Christopher J. Henderson, president
and chief financial officer of Robbins & Henderson, a New York
firm specializing in financial and related services for institutions,
has been active in promoting partnerships between universities and
U.Va. Patent Foundation is a not-for-profit Virginia corporation
affiliated with the University of Virginia that promotes the transfer
of technology developed at the University to business and industry.
Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858