UNM Rainforest Innovations

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico.  December 3, 2019.   Professor Bryce Chackerian and Professor David Peabody, both from the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the University of New Mexico, have been named 2019 Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).  The NAI announced today that it has chosen a cohort of 168 inventors from around the world for election as 2019 NAI Fellows.

Professor Bryce Chackerian
Professor Bryce Chackerian

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

With the election of the 2019 class, there are now 1,229 NAI Fellows. The 2019 class represents 135 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The 2019 Fellows are named inventors on nearly 3,500 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 41,500 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 11,000 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 36 million jobs and $1.6 trillion in revenue from NAI Fellow inventions.

The STC.UNM (STC) Board of Directors nominated Drs. Chackerian and Peabody for the national honor.  STC is UNM’s technology-transfer and economic-development organization.  On behalf of the STC Board, Chair Sandra Begay stated:

Professor David Peabody
Professor David Peabody

“Dr. Chackerian and Dr. Peabody were chosen as 2017 STC.UNM Innovation Fellows based on their achievements as pioneering innovators in developing the next generation of vaccines for diverse infectious and non-infectious diseases.  Their goal is to develop simple, effective vaccines that make an impact on human health worldwide.  The STC Board believed that these distinguished faculty inventors’ accomplishments made them outstanding candidates for selection as 2019 NAI Fellows and nominated them.  We are absolutely delighted that they have been chosen.”

STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila added:

“Dr. Chackerian and Dr. Peabody are incredibly productive collaborators, which has been essential to creating their novel platform for rapid vaccine discovery.  Their exceptional vaccine platform is a powerfully versatile tool for a truly wide spectrum of targets.  It is an enabling technology developed by outstanding inventors who are deserving of this high honor.”

Dr. Chackerian, an expert in vaccine development, and Dr. Peabody, an expert in the structure and function of bacterial viruses, have created virus-like particles (VLPs) from RNA bacteriophages in order to develop an innovative vaccine platform technology.  The bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) VLPs can be produced at high yields, are very adaptable to protein engineering and are non-infectious. The technology platform integrates epitope (the part of the antigen molecule where antibodies attach) identification (antigen/antibody binding) with the VLP structure’s highly immunogenic display.  The immune system responds to vaccination with VLP-based vaccines by producing high antibody levels that last longer than what is elicited by other vaccine technologies.

They have developed vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) (second-generation vaccine), respiratory syncytial virus, Neisseria, chlamydia, malaria (blood- and liver-stage vaccines), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),  Staphylococcus aureus (including the antibiotic-resistant MRSA strains), and influenza.

AgilVax, the startup company co-founded by the inventors, is licensing the VLP-based vaccine platform to develop antibody-based therapies to fight cancer. AgilVax’s lead product, AX09, produces antibodies that specifically inhibit the function of xCT, a protein that is overexpressed on numerous tumor types including metastatic breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, hepatocellular cancers and glioblastoma.  AX09 displays a specific portion of xCT and elicits a significant anti-xCT immune response.  By inhibiting the function of xCT, AX09 has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of current therapies, reduce metastatic spread, and make a dramatic improvement in patient survival.  In preclinical breast cancer models, AX09 impaired tumor growth and reduced metastatic progression with no observed toxicity.  The company has also licensed the vaccines for HPV and RSV.

The two inventors are now pioneering the use of VLP technology to target self-antigens that are involved in chronic diseases.  Dr. Chackerian has developed a vaccine targeting molecules that control cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism and is developing a vaccine targeting opioid molecules to generate an immune response that would block the drugs from reaching receptors in the brain.  Both are also developing a vaccine that would destroy the tau protein, implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and present following traumatic brain injuries and in chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  This class of vaccines could serve as cost-effective alternative to monoclonal antibody therapies.

The 2019 Fellows will be inducted on April 10, 2020 at the Heard Museum, as part of the Ninth Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors to be held on April 8-10 in Phoenix, Arizona at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.   This year’s theme is Sustainable Futures:  Propelling Innovative Ecosystems. Laura A. Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), will be the keynote speaker at the induction ceremony.  In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal, and rosette pin.

See also the NAI press release and list of 2019 Fellows at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-academy-of-inventors-announces-2019-fellows-300968031.html.

As the technology-transfer and economic-development organization for the University of New Mexico (UNM), STC.UNM (STC) protects and commercializes technologies developed at UNM by filing patents and copyrights and transferring them to the marketplace.  We connect the business community (companies, entrepreneurs and investors) to these UNM technologies for licensing opportunities and the creation of start-up companies. STC’s vision is to play a vital role in New Mexico’s economic development and to be a leader in technology commercialization.  Under the leadership of CEO Lisa Kuuttila, STC is substantially growing its program using the Rainforest model to develop an innovation economy in New Mexico.  To learn more about us, visit our website at http://www.stc.unm.edu.

National Academy of Inventors
The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. The NAI has a close collaborative relationship with the USPTO and is one of three honorific organizations, along with the National Medals and National Inventors Hall of Fame, working closely with the USPTO on many innovation support initiatives. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation. www.academyofinventors.org

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