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Georgetown Celebrates Patents for Cancer Prevention, Other Inventions

Richard Schlegel

Dr. Richard Schlegel, right, works with a research assistant in his lab. The inventor of the Gardasil vaccine recently received honors along with 28 other researchers during Georgetown's first Patent Award Ceremony.

February 8, 2011 – A faculty member who invented a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus and another who created a way to manage chronic disease using software applications were just two of 29 Georgetown inventors recognized during the university’s first Patent Award Ceremony.

“This was an opportunity for us to recognize the achievements of our colleagues,” says Claudia Stewart, vice president of technology and commercialization, of the Jan. 31 event. “It was also a chance to let their peers know about the outstanding work they are doing.”

Dr. Richard Schlegel, the Oscar B. Hunter Chair of Pathology, helped create the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines that prevent human papillomavirus.

A Long Wait

“It wasn’t a quick process,” Schlegel says. “It took about 24 years from laboratory to commercialization.”

He and his team first disclosed the invention to Georgetown University in 1992, but the Food and Drug Administration didn’t approve the vaccine, Gardasil, until 2006.

In 2000, The Office of Technology Commercialization filed for patent protection of his second-generation HPV vaccine invention and the U.S. patent was issued in 2007.

Today his vaccine is administered to girls and women between the ages of nine and 26, as well as boys and young men, in an effort to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts.

Managing Health

Schlegel talked about his work during the ceremony along with fellow Georgetown inventor Betty Levine.

Levine, division director for e-health and telemedicine at the Imaging Science and Information Systems Center, is one of principle architects of the MyCareTeam (MCT) Internet-based chronic disease management software program.

MCT allows people with diabetes and their health care providers to collaborate and monitor glucose levels, manage weight and monitor hypertension levels via the Internet.

Variety of Inventions

Others recognized at the ceremony included chemistry professor Richard Weiss, who with an energy industry provider received a patent in 2007 for new gelling agents and treatment fluids that have the potential to enhance pipeline chemical cleanup operations for the oil industry.  

Michael Johnson, assistant professor in the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the late Robert Dickson, professor of oncology, co-invented biological technology that that can act as diagnostic and or therapeutic agents in the field of cancer treatment.

And Kathleen Pirollo, research professor at Lombardi, received a patent last year for a method that prepares an immunoliposome complex for gene therapy. An immunoliposome is an important tool in drug targeting and delivery.

Out to the Masses

Schlegel emphasizes the importance of getting successful discoveries out to the masses.

“In the excitement of discovery it may not always enter your mind to seek to commercialize,” he says. “It takes reflection to determine how your findings might have usefulness or to even think about all the ways that your findings can be useful.”

The patents awarded to Georgetown faculty cover inventions running the gamut from small molecule therapies for cancer and nicotine addiction to gene therapy to methods for compound purification.

For a list of 2007-2010 patent awardees, visit the Office of Technology and Commercialization website.

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