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European Patent Awarded for Anti-Cancer Vaccine Technology

Monday, June 27, 2005

            The European Patent Office has awarded the patent for a technology that is proving to be key to efforts to protect women against cervical cancer to a team of scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

            The office has awarded a patent to the University for the work performed by a trio of virologists – Robert Rose, Ph.D., William Bonnez, M.D., and Richard Reichman, M.D. – for creating a way to protect the body against human papillomaviruses (HPV), which cause cervical cancer in women. The University’s technology is a key element of two vaccines that are now in the final stages of testing in people.

            Earlier this year the two companies developing vaccines, Merck and Co. and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), along with the University and several other parties agreed on a settlement involving patents and royalties related to the vaccines, clearing the way for continued development of their products. Both vaccines, which are given as a series of three shots, are being studied in tens of thousands of women.

            While there are more than 100 types of HPV, and more than three dozen cause sexually transmitted diseases, a handful can lead to cervical cancer, which kills more than 250,000 women around the globe every year. More than a decade ago the Rochester team created virus-like particles (VLPs) that are harmless but which mimic real HPV viruses, triggering an immune response in people that wards off infection by HPV.

            The team has also applied for a U.S. patent on the technology; that decision is pending.

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