When Ed Lentz arrived at Indiana State University in 1976, he planned to become a biology researcher and contribute to science.
“When I got to grad school I thought I would do research and teach,” he said. “While I was there, I enjoyed very much the science but I did not enjoy the lab work.”
Instead, the 1977 Indiana State graduate went to law school to study intellectual property and has worked to help scientists receive patents for their work.
“Now, I have the pleasure of working with scientists and learning about research without doing the lab work,” he said.
One scientist with whom he has worked is Swapan Ghosh, professor of biology at Indiana State. Ghosh’s work has earned three patents for the university, two of which were shepherded by Lentz.
While attending ISU, Lentz studied with Bob Bozarth, who also served as Lentz’s thesis advisor for his research into virus-like particles that infect corn smut fungus. Lentz and Bozarth stayed in contact as the years passed, and Bozarth recommended Lentz when Ghosh became interested in obtaining patents for his work.
“I was thinking, ‘How could we get hold of an alumnus or someone who could help us file patent applications?’” said Ghosh, who was not at Indiana State when Lentz attended. “Ed has joined with me and helped to articulate what we have discovered and with his attorney’s pen translated it into a patent application.”
Lentz, who has worked as a patent attorney since 1980 including 20 years with Glaxo Smith Kline, agreed to help Ghosh pro bono.
“I wanted to give back to ISU, to do it as a favor, out of respect and fondness for Dr. Bozarth and, more recently, out of respect and fondness for Dr. Ghosh as well,” said Lentz, who lives in New Lisbon, N.Y. with his wife Vicky, whom he met while both attended ISU. Vicky now is an assistant professor of biology at State University of New York at Oneonta.
In 2004, Lentz filed a patent application for Ghosh’s research in which he and graduate students found a protein they named DP58, which is a cell surface protein that occurs when stem cells begin to mature.
“We decided it could be a good biomarker of when the immune cell is being activated,” Ghosh said. “That way we can say if a vaccine or anything else is going to be effective. One way is to find out if this biomarker comes on.”
That led to patent 7,642,045. It focuses on antibodies that specifically bind to DP58 and was issued on Jan. 5, 2010. DP58 itself became patent, US 8,334,368, which was issued on Dec. 18, 2012.
“ Ed has joined with me and helped to articulate what we have discovered and with his attorney’s pen translated it into a patent application.” — Swapan Ghosh
But Ghosh also found on the surface of cells another protein, which mediates the emergence of DP58.
“This other protein, which we call CSP82, is also a cell surface protein found on stem cells prior to maturation,” Ghosh said. “When CSP82 is activated, it induces production of DP58.”
Ghosh uses CSP82 as a biomarker to identify and isolate stem cells that give rise to dendritic cells and activate the immune system. This can help enrich stem cells from bone marrow to develop dendritic cell vaccines. A patent application for CSP82 has recently been filed.
“The two patents and the third patent application all stem from the same research project but the patent office views different proteins, like DP58 and CSP82, and antibodies, like anti-DP58 antibody, as different inventions,” Lentz said. “The law prescribes that only one invention per patent.”
Ghosh has also received a patent, number 8,088,395 for a phytol-derived adjuvant. Vaccines, which are used to train the immune system to attack a specific antigen, such as a specific bacterial or viral pathogen, often need an agent – an adjuvant – to enhance the immune response. Alum has been widely used for years, but has come under attack as a possible cause of neurological disorders. But the phytol compound comes from cholorphyll, which creates the color in green plants. The compound could be used to boost immunity in cancer patients, aid in fighting infectious agents and be used in preparing laboratory reagents and diagnostic kits.
While patents bring recognition to a university, Lentz said a major reason for filing a patent is to make sure the university receives royalties for its inventions. Biological supply houses could commercialize the biomarkers or the adjuvant by packaging and selling them for other researchers to use.
“It’s only fair that the university be recompensed for making this invention and paving the way for the commercial entity to sell and profit from it,” Lentz said.
The university has not received any money yet from the patents, which last until 2025.
“We don’t know if it will, but there’s no chance of it materializing without a patent,” Lentz said. “We know there’s interest in the proteins and antibodies because Dr. Ghosh gets requests for them from other researchers.”
As both men reflected on their time working together toward the patents, their comments echoed one another.
“It’s been fun,” Lentz said.
“It’s been fun, right,” Ghosh responded.
Jennifer Sicking, GR ’11, is the editor of Indiana State University Magazine.