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Dr. Govert van Dam week visit to TTUHSC - Lubbock

Dr. Govert van Dam (Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands) spent a very productive week at TTUHSC - Lubbock. His visit was a joint effort of the Texas Tech University Honors College/Global Scholar Academy and the Center for Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases. He helped develop/refine assays that will be used to determine the efficacy of SchistoShield® vaccine in human clinical trials in Africa.
November, 2016

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TTUHSC researcher receives patent for schistosomiasis vaccine

November 9, 2015

Dr. Siddiqui


More than 20 years of his professional career have been devoted to finding a treatment for schistosomiasis.

In October, Dr. Afzal Siddiqui, a professor in the department of immunology & molecular microbiology at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, received a patent for a vaccine he created in his lab to treat schistosomiasis.

The disease is more prevalent in countries outside the continental United States, but the strain Siddiqui has been working with was found in Puerto Rico.

Schistosomiasis is passed on through eggs in an infected person’s urine or feces. When snails are present in the contaminated water, they ingest the eggs, which develop inside their host and later re-enter water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The parasite can survive for 48 hours in the water.

Once in contact with human skin, the parasites get into the body and produce many eggs causing bulging bellies — one of several characteristics of the disease, Siddiqui said.

“This vaccine is a chance to improve the lives of 200 million people,” said Dr. Michael Conn, vice president of research for HSC, in reference to the number of people affected by the disease. “This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along often.”

About 800 million more are at risk of being infected, Siddiqui said, which is why he felt it was so important to receive the patent to protect his work.

“So we want to make vaccines for less than a dollar,” he said. “So that’s why we didn’t want anybody to get it.”

Duplications of the vaccination could lead to increases in the vaccine’s market price, making it go out of reach for the people who might need it the most.

“We didn’t want that to happen,” Siddiqui said. “We wanted to have the patent on it so we could control the distribution.”

It’s taken 22 years to develop the vaccination and file for the patent, he said.

David McClure, managing director of licensing for the Office of Research Commercialization for the Tech System, said Siddiqui’s is one of only three patents received by scientists at the HSC in the past five years. Siddiqui and Dr. Samuel Prien, who received one for his research on reproduction — were the most recently acquired.

“…This is very exciting news, something that we want all our faculty to be aware of and inspired by,” McClure said. “It also marks the culmination of a very long process, as it can take six years or more from the date of the first application to receive notice of issuance, and over 50 percent of patent applications are denied.”

Even though he has a patent, the vaccine is still undergoing testing. Siddiqui said he’s getting ready to start safety and efficacy trials in human beings. It’s already passed the animal-testing phase.

So far he’s received about $11 million worth of funding from organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

Receiving the U.S. patent was just one of several victories Siddiqui hopes to accomplish with his project.

He also applied for patents in China, Brazil and India, which are all still pending.

The vaccine was created with the intent for affordable distribution in the developing countries that need it, he said.

“This was not to make money, not to make any profit or anything,” he said. “The reason we got the patent was to make sure people do not make money off it.”