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Ohio State vaccine researcher named Fellow of National Academy of Inventors

Renukaradhya Gourapura’s research focuses on food animal health

An Ohio State University professor who has developed a respiratory virus vaccine for pigs now licensed and used by the pork industry has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Renukaradhya Gourapura, professor of veterinary preventive medicine in the Food Animal Health Research Program at the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Wooster, joins a 2019 class of Fellows representing 136 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide. He is the 10th Ohio State inventor to be chosen as a Fellow of the NAI.

Gourapura’s lab uses nanotechnology techniques to create innovative delivery systems for mucosal vaccines that can be given to animals – and, someday, humans – through the nose.

His work has led to date to six U.S. patents: three concerning methods used to develop a vaccine to treat and prevent a respiratory ailment in pigs; two for a flu vaccine formulation based on chitosan, a natural polymer of chitin-based nanoparticles, and liposomes, which are nanometer-sized bubbles made out of the same material as a cell membrane; and one for a salmonella oral vaccine for poultry. One of his patents is being patent protected in China and Europe, and two of his patents are seeking patent protection in six other countries.

A pig vaccine his team developed to control porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, licensed by Aptimmune Biologics in 2015, is a commercial success. The virus can lead to breeding failures and respiratory disease in pigs of all age groups.

“The vaccines developed in my lab target mucosal immunity, and it’s not easy. You need an excellent delivery system, and that is why we’re using different types of nanoparticles in the model,” Gourapura said. “The porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and swine flu virus are the economically significant problems for the pig industry in the U.S. and globally. These are the kinds of things that the National Academy of Inventors looks at: basic research that leads to the development of a licensable product.”

Gourapura is a two-time participant in I-Corps@Ohio, an Ohio Department of Higher Education initiative helping selected faculty and student teams across the state to determine if their intellectual property could be the basis of a startup company.

He is collaborating on multiple additional vaccine projects, including a human flu vaccine delivered through liposome nanoparticles and a salmonella vaccine intended to be administered to poultry through drinking water.

The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have “demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

Gourapura noted that the nature of his mucosal immunology work, combining veterinary expertise with bio-engineering practices, has led him to assemble a team of highly talented postdoctoral researchers and graduate students who will go on to make significant contributions to human and animal health.

“We are creating opportunities and helping the team members become independent researchers capable of developing new technologies that have potential to create jobs, save money, improve health and bolster the economy,” he said.

Morley Stone, senior vice president for research at Ohio State, said Gourapura embodies the entrepreneurial spirit needed to translate basic science into commercially viable products.

“Dr. Gourapura has successfully pursued opportunities that are helping him accelerate the transfer of technologies developed in his lab to the marketplace,” Stone said. “This is a powerful way to demonstrate the impact of research. I’m pleased to see his work recognized by the National Academy of Inventors.”

Gourapura and the rest of the 2019 class of Fellows will be inducted on April 10, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona, during a commemorative event at the Ninth Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors.

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