New U.S. patents awarded for inventions by biomolecular faculty members

Three new patents were issued to FIU for inventions developed by faculty members in the Biomolecular Sciences Institute including Irina AgoulnikAlexander AgoulnikFenfei Leng and Anthony McGoron.

Irina Agoulnik and Alexander Agoulnik, professors in the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, in collaboration with Juan Jose Marugan, Jingbo Xiao, Marc Ferrer-Alegre, Catherine Chen, Noel Southall, Wei Zheng, and other inventors at NIH, have been awarded a patent for their invention (U.S. Patent No. 10125112 “Modulators of the relaxin receptor 1”).

The peptide hormone relaxin is a hormone of pregnancy due to its effects to relax pubic ligaments and soften the cervix to facilitate parturition. During pregnancy, relaxin induces increase in cardiac output, decrease in systemic vascular resistance, and increase in global arterial compliance and renal blood flow.

The latest statistics indicate that 1 of every 2.9 deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease and 1 in 9 death certificates in the United States mention heart failure. These statistics clearly illustrate the limitations of current therapies for acute heart failure. The relaxin hormone has produced excellent responses in clinical trials for treatment of heart failure and is about to reach commercialization. However, administration of the hormone is difficult in chronic settings, and therefore it is important to have new modulators of the human relaxin receptor 1.

Fenfei Lang

Leng’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 10150987 “Labeled circular DNA molecules for analysis of DNA topology, and topoisomerases and for drug screening”) will provide labeled circular plasmid DNA molecules for studying DNA topology and topoisomerases. The molecules of the present invention can provide tools for high throughput drug screening for inhibitors of DNA gyrases and DNA topoisomerases.

DNA can be viewed as an extremely long double-stranded rope in which the two strands are twisted around the other. DNA topology is essentially the geometry of DNA. Topoisomerases are the enzymes that regulate the topological state of DNA in the cell. Leng’s work could lead to discovery of future anticancer and antibiotic drugs. The methods, molecules and kits that are part of this invention can be used in connection with pharmaceutical, medical, and veterinary applications, as well as fundamental scientific research and methodologies.

McGoron is a professor in the College of Engineering & Computing. His patent, in collaboration with Vinay Bhardwaj, (U.S. Patent No. 10145845 “On-chip assay for environmental surveillance”) provides the ways and means to detect incidents of accidental or intentional release of chemical and biological toxins into the environment. The increasing threat of an intentional or accidental release of toxins, in particular chemical toxins, including chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals has increased public fear.

The major problem in such attacks or accidents is to detect toxins quickly. To solve this problem, sensors are needed that are suitable for rapid, inexpensive, simple and effective on-site detection that will be able to provide reliable, in-the-field global sensing of environmental threats in resource limited settings. The invention will also enable detection of biomarkers in a variety of disease conditions including cancer, HIV, neuro-degenerative diseases, diabetes and others.

Biomolecular faculty are working to find successful strategies and therapies for disease prevention and treatment, including drug discoveries that have the potential for greatly improving health outcomes for people around the world.