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SWOSU Receives First Ever U.S. Patent

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Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford recently obtained its first United States Patent, making it one of only four universities in Oklahoma that hold U.S. Patents.

The inventors named in the patent are SWOSU Department of Chemistry and Physics Chair and Bernhardt Professor of Chemistry Dr. Tim Hubin; former faculty member in SWOSU Pharmaceutical Sciences M. O. Faruk Khan; and collaborators Babu Tekwani at the University of Mississippi and Steve Archibald at the University in Hull (United Kingdom).

The patent includes the synthesis of a large class of novel macrocyclic compounds originating in the labs of Hubin and Archibald. These compounds contain multiple nitrogen atoms arranged in ring structures that are further structurally reinforced by additional carbon-chain bridges between nitrogen atoms.  These structures allow extremely strong binding to transition metal ions like iron, copper, manganese and many others.

SWOSU Provost Dr. James South said the university enthusiastically supports the research efforts of its students and faculty and provides many opportunities for those involved in research.  SWOSU has never had a U.S. Patent assigned to it since its founding in 1901.

SWOSU President Randy Beutler and South were in strong support of the patenting of this work. SWOSU’s Intellectual Property Committee and Office of Sponsored Programs approved and supported the patent process. Oklahoma City law firm Dunlap Codding were instrumental in navigating the patent application process, in particular Kathryn L. Hester, PhD, registered patent agent and risk manager and life sciences practice group leader.

Hubin said hundreds of related compounds, either with or without metal ions bound, were tested for the ability to inhibit growth of fungal pathogens, parasites like malaria and leishmania, and bacterial infections. The strongest effect was found to be against several fungal species that cause problematic and often deadly infections such as fungal meningitis, particularly in people with weakened immune systems.  Additional strong effects were seen against the parasites that cause malaria, leishmania and schistosomiasis.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved four classes of antifungal drugs, and fungi have been quickly developing resistance to all four types of antifungal drugs. The most recently FDA-approved antifungal drug was approved in 2001, and no new ones have been approved in the past 20 years.

The March 1 issue of Chemistry and Engineering News, nearly coinciding with the February 23 grant of this patent by the U.S. Patent Office, points out the lack of antifungal medications and calls for the study of new antifungals. Hubin and his colleagues hope to find collaborators and to establish licensing agreements with companies interested in exploring their newly patented technologies.

Hubin has published over 50 peer reviewed journal articles and has seven other U.S. Patents from previous work at the University of Kansas and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He has received several statewide and national awards for his teaching and research, including the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Boren Outstanding Mentor, Oklahoma Medal for Excellence, Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, DaVinci Fellows Award, and SWOSU’s Bernhardt Academic Excellence Award.

The same team of inventors has a second patent pending on related work. Hubin and Archibald will soon be submitting at least two additional patent applications dealing with the uses of related compounds as medical imaging agents and cancer therapeutics.

The patent owned by SWOSU was initially filed in 2016, and after much time and effort put into the project by Drs. Hubin, Beutler and South, SWOSU now has its first ever U.S. Patent.

Other universities in Oklahoma that have patented ground-breaking scientific research include the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma.