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An agreement between Merck & Co., Inc., and both UT San Antonio and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio sets at least two precedents. The pharmaceutical giant will fund (and work with) scientists at the two UT institutions as they develop a vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease chlaymydia. Merck will then have an exclusive license on that vaccine. Researchers Guangming Zhong, professor of microbiology and immunology at UTHSCSA; Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA professor of microbiology and immunology; and Ashlesh Murthy, a UTSA research assistant professor, have already shown that a vaccine made up of a select group of recombinant Chlaymydia trachomatis (the bacterium that causes the disease) antigens can accelerate bacterial clearance in animal models while preserving female reproductive function. Chlaymydia is the most common STD caused by a bacterium, and its symptoms, especially among females, are often so mild that it’s hard to detect. But there are some 2.3 million infections yearly, and in females they can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, serious complications for newborns, and infertility.
This represents the first revenue-producing license for any technology developed at UTSA. It’s also the first exclusive license negotiated and executed by South Texas Technology Management, the regional technology transfer office affiliated with UTSA, UTHSCSA, UT Pan American and UT Brownsville. STTM’s mission is to aid the public by facilitating widespread distribution of new discoveries and breakthroughs by the four South Texas UT institutions, while also generating revenues for these intellectual properties.