|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
San Diego Daily Transcript 11-9-04
SDSU, Merck Patent Agreement Largest in School's History
San Diego State University has reached a $300,000 patent license agreement with Merck & Co.'s pharmaceutical division, marking the largest technology transfer agreement in the university's history.
The patented technology uncovered hundreds of new essential genes and enables researchers to target those genes with new antibiotics. SDSU researchers Judith Zyskind and R. Allyn Forsyth developed the technology. Zyskind is the director of SDSU's BioScience Center. Forsyth was a graduate student at the time of the discoveries and is now employed by Merck in San Diego.
The license gives Merck exclusive use of the technology for four years with an option to renew. SDSU students and faculty may continue to use the technology for projects, under the terms of the agreement.
Zyskind said the discovery of the new genes would hasten the development of next-generation antibiotics.
"The emergence and global dissemination of antibiotic resistant pathogens has led to people dying from infectious diseases," Zyskind said.
A Merck spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on the agreement by press time. The Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based company has research facilities in San Diego, West Point, Pa., and Rahway, N.J.
Zyskind and Forsyth discovered 400 genes that can be targeted with antibiotics to inhibit or limit the growth of pathogenic organisms that cause infectious disease.
Merck negotiated the license agreement through the university's technology transfer office, which was formed by the SDSU Foundation in 1998 to facilitate transfers of intellectual property and other resources between the university and the private sector.
SDSU has more than 100 agreements to license its patents and copyrights to outside organizations. Until now, none of them exceeded $100,000.
"The agreement with Merck is a perfect example of how sharing new, university-based technologies with forward-thinking businesses leads to advances that improve our lives -- in this case in health care," said Barry Janov, director of the technology transfer program.
Meanwhile, Zyskind and her fellow researchers at the BioScience Center will use the technology to study the link between infectious disease and heart disease, which is considered the nation's No. 1 killer.
"Diseases such as athlerosclerosis and diabetes have been thought to result from lifestyle and genetic factors, but the latest information shows infectious diseases may be a significant risk factor," Zyskind said. "That means developing new antibiotics could become more important for preventing disease in the future."
Athlerosclerosis is caused by the buildup of fat and cholesterol deposits, also known as plaque, in blood vessels, which leads to inadequate blood flow to tissues.
The university last month broke ground on a $14.3 million facility to house the BioScience Center, which is focused predominately on the link between infectious diseases and heart disease.
The newest addition to SDSU's suite of modern science buildings will house the SDSU Heart Institute, the Center for Microbial Sciences and other core programs and facilities. With more than 37,000 square feet of usable space, the center will feature four floors of research laboratories and a 100-seat auditorium. It is scheduled for completion in January 2006.
At a recent groundbreaking ceremony, SDSU President Stephen Weber said the BioScience Center is a natural next step for SDSU as it continues to distinguish itself.
"Our faculty and staff have brought in more than $500 million in research grants and program contracts since 2000, and facilities such as the BioScience Center will create exciting new possibilities for more projects sponsored by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Weber said. "We're creating an environment that will keep our faculty and students on the leading edge of discovery."
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