New UM technology could provide five-minute diagnostic test and vaccine for Staph infections

Published on February 26, 2013 at 6:54 AM · No Comments

New technology from the University of Maryland (UM) could potentially provide a five-minute diagnostic test and a vaccine for tough-to-treat Staphylococcus aureus infections, including the antibiotic-resistant MRSA, often called a "super bug," says inventor Mark Shirtliff, PhD, an associate professor at the UM School of Dentistry in Baltimore.

Shirtliff is the winner of the 2013 BioMaryland LIFE (Leading Innovative Faculty Entrepreneurs) Prize for the most promising technology from the University as awarded by a judging panel at the annual joint meeting of the UM Baltimore Commercial Advisory Board and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Alliance for Science and Technology Development.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and other drug-resistant forms of bacteria too often colonize implantable medical devices, said Shirtliff, causing many of the nearly 2 million health care-associated infections each year in this country. Such infections cause thousands of deaths every year and the annual cost of treating such infections exceeds $5 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shirtliff received the LIFE Prize following his presentation, "Protective Vaccine against Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms and Other Antigens," before an audience of more than 150 venture capitalists, seasoned biotech entrepreneurs, and business development executives from the biopharma industry.

"I am incredibly honored. I owe this to my lab folks and to my dean [Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent], my department chair [Patrik Bavoil, PhD.] and my early faculty mentor [the late J. William Costerton, PhD] for their support," said Shirtliff.

Dr. Shirtliff's laboratory in the School of Dentistry's Department of Microbial Pathogenesis will receive a $50,000 award sponsored by the Maryland Biotechnology Center and the UM Office of Technology Transfer in Baltimore.

Shirtliff, who also serves as an adjunct associate professor in the UM School of Medicine, said that unlike vaccine attempts elsewhere, his vaccine candidate "for multiple forms of staph infections shows 100 percent clearance of the infections in mice." He said his laboratory will apply the prize money to fine-tuning laminar flow assay diagnostics, which he referred to as "a dip stick test" to determine from a patient's blood if it is infected with MRSA. The funding also will advance further proof of concept studies for the vaccine in test animals.

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