IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

Leveraging Spin-Outs to Support Global Health

NOTE: This blog by IDRI’s Erik Iverson was recently featured online at IP Watchdog.

Recently published an article that cited the work we do at IDRI  as an example of how dedicated individuals and corporations can work together to transform science into global health solutions. By integrating capabilities, we strive to create an efficient pathway to bring scientific innovation from the lab to the people who need it most.

I write today to explain more about what IDRI does and why leveraging spin-out companies supports global health initiatives.

One of the most important engines in populating and growing the life sciences sector within the United States is the practice of universities spinning out new technologies into startup biotechnology companies. This, in turn, drives the development of new drugs, vaccines and other much-needed health products.

The U.S. Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 permits universities, small businesses and non-profit institutions to own inventions arising out of federally funded research. The very purpose of the Bayh-Dole Act was to counteract the economic stagnation of the 1970s by allowing inventors to leverage their inventions to generate licensing revenues. It also permitted private industry to obtain the technology license rights and drive development of innovative products to the marketplace. Today, most universities have technology transfer offices to license out new technologies into both established and newly-created biotechnology companies.  Many drugs, vaccines and other health products that save lives and improve the health of people around the world are a direct result of these licensing and spin-out activities. (more…)

The Intersection of Climate and Vectors

NOTE: April 7 is observed each year as World Health Day; this year’s focus is on vector-borne diseases. We asked Liliana Bogin, a former IDRI intern who will graduate from the University of Washington with bachelor’s degree in public health in June, to write a blog post about the effect of climate change on infectious disease and the vectors that carry them, which was the topic of her UW thesis.)

As the climate changes, everything will be forced to adapt to the new ways of the environment in order to survive. While it is not often on the forefront of people’s focus, the effects of climate change on insects may have a serious impact on people throughout the world in coming years.

As the climate changes throughout the world, factors associated with climate change such as rainfall, humidity and temperature will affect where in the world insect vectors are able to live and thrive. As a result of environmental pressures, insects will migrate to live in new, previously inhospitable regions of the world. The result of climate changes may be significantly altered human- vector interactions, leading to changes in disease transmission and rates of vector-borne infectious diseases. (more…)

Don’t We Already Have a TB Vaccine?

(NOTE: Join IDRI scientists for a free World TB Day event from 5:30-8 p.m., March 24, at Seattle Town Hall, where local TB experts will come together to offer their views on what Washington state is doing to improve the health of the world.)

When people find out I work on the development of a vaccine against tuberculosis (TB), I often get the same question: but don’t we already have a vaccine against TB? You know, the one that leaves a scar on your shoulder?

The famous scarring BCG vaccine!

The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is a live weakened version of the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) that causes TB. The BCG vaccine was developed by scientists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin almost 100 years ago. While it is no longer administered in the United States, it remains one of the most used vaccines throughout the world with more than 80 percent of newborns immunized in countries where the BCG vaccine is part of the national childhood immunization program.

The overall efficacy of BCG is controversial as protection  is reported to be largely limited to childhood and early adolescence (<15 years) with no or very low protection observed in adulthood.  A major issue is that the vaccine does not  prevent primary infection and, more importantly, does not prevent reactivation of latent pulmonary infection, the principal cause of tuberculosis dissemination in the community.  Despite this, most agree that it is important in high burden countries where it is able to prevent, to some extent, disseminated disease and deaths due to TB. (more…)

TB: Today’s Biggest Threat to Global Health

(NOTE: Join IDRI scientists for a free World TB Day event from 5:30-8 p.m. at Seattle Town Hall, where local TB experts will come together to offer their views on what Washington state is doing to improve the health of the world.)

As World Tuberculosis Day approaches on March 24, attention turns to this disease that is one of the largest threats — if not THE largest threat — to global health today.  The latest report from the World Health Organization shows that, during 2012, there were 8.6 million new cases of tuberculosis and 1.3 million deaths due to the disease.  The vast majority of people who have TB are latently infected and do not experience symptoms, which means that the reported illnesses and deaths are just the tip of a massive iceberg.  Current estimates have the global burden of tuberculosis at 2.3 billion people infected or about one-third of the total world population. (more…)

Women in Science: Not a Rosy Picture

March 8 is International Women’s Day – a time to celebrate the achievements of women, to recognize our progress towards equality, but also to reflect on how much is still to be done. In the US in the 21st century, it seems somewhat strange to have a day to celebrate women — after all where is the corresponding mens’ day? And in science, where an enquiring mind and tenacity to pursue questions are needed, surely women are treated equally?

Well, it turns out things are not quite so rosy. Ever since my days as a graduate student I have been struck by the lack of women at high levels in science. Sure, there were plenty of us as students and junior post-doctoral researchers (and in biology, often more than men), but where were the female professors? For example, during my undergraduate studies the microbiology department had a single female lecturer. Over the past 20 years, there has only been a small amount of progress. Women are still far outnumbered in senior science positions. It is not uncommon for me to be the only female speaker in a large conference session or the only woman in a room of grant holders. (more…)

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