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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 26, 2003

UI Microbiologist Receives Iowa's Inventor Of The Year Award

Mark Stinski, Ph.D., University of Iowa Distinguished Professor for Virology, has been named Iowa's Inventor of the Year by the Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association.

Stinski, a professor in the UI Department of Microbiology, becomes the 25th recipient of the award for his work in discovering the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter, a tool to make proteins that is important in the development of various therapeutic drugs.

Many of these drugs are used throughout the world. They include Rituxin and Zevalin, for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; Synagis, for the treatment of respiratory syncetial virus RSV; ReFacto, for the treatment of factor V deficiency in hemophilia; and Zenapax, for the prevention of acute organ rejection after a transplant.

Michael Apicella, M.D., UI professor and head of microbiology, said the discovery, "transformed the modern approach to vaccines and therapeutics" and noted it was, "part of the most important advance in medical therapeutics in the past three decades."

And yet, Stinski said, "When you do something like this, you don't know what the outcome ultimately is going to be. But it turns out it was a good one."

Pharmaceutical products began to emerge in the 1990s, he said, when companies discovered that the CMV promoter enabled them to produce drugs more efficiently than with any other method available.

Stinski's CMV promoter is generally held to be the most effective promoter of its kind to date. Researchers worldwide routinely use it as a part of gene and cellular research, and it can also be used as part of gene therapy, although no drugs developed with the promoter have yet been approved.

"It has resulted in effective treatments for children with serious viral infections, patients with lymphoma and individuals with serious bleeding disorders," Apicella said. "Additional effective agents using the promoter will be available in the near future."

A eukaryotic promoter functions in an organism composed of one or more cells containing visibly evident nuclei and organelles. Stinski's UI laboratory was the first to clone the human cytomegalovirus genome into noninfectious DNA segments. The discovery facilitated the characterization of individual viral glycoproteins and viral regulatory proteins, which eventually led Stinski to his award-winning discovery.

Stinski was nominated for the award by Bruce Wheaton, executive director of the UI Research Foundation. Consistent with UI policy, the UI Research Foundation owns the two Stinski patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,168,062 and 5,385,839). Wheaton said the UI Research Foundation has issued about 80 non-exclusive licenses for the invention.

"We are delighted that the Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association has chosen to honor Professor Stinski for his invention," Wheaton said. "The invention has financial importance, but beyond that it makes possible the efficient production of a number of new medicines that are helping make sick people better."

Stinski received his doctoral degree from Michigan State University in 1969. He joined the UI faculty in 1973. He will receive his award Sept. 26 at a banquet sponsored by the association in Des Moines.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu