The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the 2018 Patents for Humanity winners with Vanderbilt University awarded an honorable mention.
Vanderbilt University and the Crowe Lab (a part of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center) was awarded an honorable mention for their work in distributing antibodies for Zika virus to other researchers to develop vaccines and treatments. Within a year of the outbreak, the Vanderbilt team isolated and characterized human monoclonal antibodies that specifically target Zika virus proteins and block the virus from infecting cells. This research led to the filing of the present PCT patent application, which covers a collection of 19 Zika antibodies and cell lines engineered to produce these antibodies. Fortunately, long before Zika made global headlines, Dr. James E. Crowe, Jr., Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, was collecting blood samples from the few individuals known to have been infected with the then-rare virus. The logistics for obtaining diverse samples from many regions of the world required coordination among numerous teams at Vanderbilt, including those involved in project management, the institutional review board, legal, contract management, research, and technology transfer. The value of this coordinated effort in preparation for an outbreak was apparent when the Vanderbilt team was able to rapidly deploy an assortment of tools to the Zika research community in response to the epidemic.