The University Record, October 8, 1997

U-M receives patent for DNA viral-mediated gene transfer technology

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to the University Sept. 30 for pioneering gene transfer technology developed in 1987 by researchers at the Medical School.

The patent broadly covers use of DNA viruses as vectors to introduce new genes into mammalian cells. The technology was first reported in the January 1988 issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology by William Kelley, Myron Levine, Thomas Palella and their research colleagues. Their original study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Kelley is currently CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and dean of the School of Medicine; Levine is professor emeritus of human genetics; and Palella is now with Rheumatic Disease Center Physicians in Niles, Ill.

"These scientists were the first to show it was possible to deliver exogenous genes via a DNA viral vector," said Robert L. Robb, director of the Technology Management Office. "The significance of their pioneering work and contribution to early gene therapy has now been validated by the U.S. Patent Office."

According to Robb, the U-M has adopted a non-exclusive licensing strategy and will make the patent claims available to all for-profit corporations currently using the technology. "The University plans to make the license available on reasonable commercial terms, so these companies will face no impediments to continued development of gene therapy products with potential to benefit the general public," Robb said.

Universities and non-profit organizations will not be required to take a license to use the technology, Robb added.

Since the 1988 announcement of DNA viral-mediated gene transfer at the University, significant advances have been made in the field. Today, many other gene transfer techniques are in varying stages of development÷including retroviruses, dendrimers, liposomes and direct intracellular administration.

"The U-M discovery stimulated additional research that led to a variety of methods for introducing genes into cells," Robb said. "Whether DNA viral-mediated gene transfer becomes a commercial success for the U-M or not, we are pleased to have played such a major role in developing this ground-breaking technology."

"Those of us whose research is supported by federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, owe it to the American taxpayer to transfer our research findings, where applicable, to the public domain," said Irwin J. Goldstein, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Medical School. "We put a high priority on technology transfer."

"This is a perfect example of the value to society of the university's research mission," said Marvin G. Parnes, assistant vice president for research. "What began as a basic scientific research question in the late 1980s÷how can we introduce new genes into a living cell÷has helped generate a major worldwide biotechnology industry just 10 years later."

`Those of us whose research is supported by federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, owe it to the American taxpayer to transfer our research findings, where applicable, to the public domain. We put a high priority on technology transfer.'