Rutgers University is among more than 60 winners of the 2019 Edison Patent Awards – commemorating the state’s most prolific inventor, Thomas Alva Edison – which is in its 40th edition celebrating New Jersey’s exceptional inventors.
The Research & Development Council of New Jersey awarded winners on Nov. 14 at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Innovative patent work spanned 15 R&D categories including: information technology, environmental, enabling technology, medical technology, medical device, energy, industrial process, emerging therapy, pharmaceutical, agriculture, telecommunications, biotechnology, smart grid, medical imaging and telecommunication systems.
Recipients of the 2019 installation included Avaya Inc.; BASF Corp.; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Celgene Corp.; Ethicon Inc., a Johnson & Johnson Company; ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co.; Honeywell International; Insmed Inc.; Merck & Co. Inc.; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Nokia Bell Labs; Siemens Corporate Technology; Siemens Healthineers; SubCom and Rutgers.
Taking on TB
The two Rutgers University researchers who received the 2019 Edison Patent Award – David Alland, chief of infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) and director of the Center for Emerging Pathogens and Rutgers Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, and Soumitesh Chakravorty, adjunct assistant professor at NJMS and director of R&D at Cepheid Inc. – were selected for their milestone patent for a rapid, automated test for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) and Rifampicin-resistant M. tuberculosis in the biotechnology category.
“Detection of Drug Resistant Mycobacterium Tuberculosis” consists of a technology that shortens the time it takes to diagnose tuberculosis from around seven weeks to less than two hours.
“I’m gratified, pleased and honored with this award but also humbled to know that this is just a very small part of a very large mission. Tuberculosis has become more drug resistant. There was a clear need for better diagnostic,” said Alland. “Tuberculosis tests were not sensitive enough to detect TB in patients who had a small amount of TB in their lungs and particularly in patients who are HIV positive. We knew that this test was missing people who had tuberculosis and had to be improved on.”
The test developed by Alland and Chakravorty is the first near-patient, on-demand diagnostic test for a highly contagious and drug resistant form of M. tuberculosis, which has been declared as a global emergency. The assay isolates and then uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify M. tuberculosis directly from sputum specimens enabling detection of M. tuberculosis and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in less than two hours in a single, hands-free step.
Rutgers’ technology has been licensed by Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company, and is now used on a global scale in Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra (CE in vitro diagnostic medical device not available in the United States). It has been endorsed and recommended by the World Health Organization since 2017.
“This test is faster, more sensitive, more accurate and more definitive,” said Chakravorty. “We are getting the same results that were taking over six weeks using conventional diagnostics, in 70 minutes. The patent really revolutionized the diagnostics of drug resistant tuberculosis.”
According to the latest WHO Global Tuberculosis Report published in 2019, 10 million people developed TB last year and 1.5 million lost their lives to the disease.