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Merck selects UTSA, Health Science Center to develop vaccine
April 27, 2009


San Antonio Business Journal

Two San Antonio research institutions have signed an exclusive license and research agreement with pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. to work on a new vaccine for chlamydia.

The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will develop a treatment option that, one day, could target the sexually transmitted bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.

This sexually transmitted bacteria is responsible for nearly 2.3 million cases of infection in the United States. Long-term infection in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, serious complications for newborns and infertility. The most common treatment today is antibiotics.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will provide the funding for joint research at UTSA and the Health Science Center. South Texas Technology Management negotiated the exclusive license between Merck, UTSA and the Health Science Center. South Texas Technology Management is a regional technology transfer office for four South Texas UT System institutions.

Health Science Center microbiology and immunology professor Guangming Zhong, UTSA professor of microbiology and immununology professor Bernard Arulanandam and UTSA research assistant professor Ashlesh Murthy are the three researchers involved in this collaboration.

The team of researchers at the universities demonstrated that, in animal models of genital chlamydial infections, a vaccine composed of a select group of recombinant C trachomatis agents can fight the bacteria while preserving the female reproductive function.

Building upon this research, scientists from Merck and the two University of Texas System schools will work toward developing an effective vaccine for use in human beings.

"Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium, and the number of cases is on the rise," Arunlanadam says. "While many researchers have tried to develop a chlamydia vaccine, none has been successful. We hope to change that."

The Merck license will be the first revenue-producing license for any technology produced at UTSA. Specific financial details are not being disclosed. Merck paid UTSA an upfront fee and reimbursed the University of Texas System for past patent expenses.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck (NYSE: MRK) is a global developer, manufacturer and distributor of vaccines

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