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Discovery of activated protein C leads to lifesaving drug

University of Vermont scientist named Inventor of the Year

University of Vermont

University of Vermont College of Medicine Professor of Biochemistry George L. Long, Ph.D., received the Inventor of the Year Award, one of the nation's most prestigious awards for breakthrough inventions given by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) at an annual ceremony held June 5 in Washington, D.C.

Long was one of a team of scientists who shared the 29th Annual Inventor of the Year Award for their invention of the lifesaving drug Xigris™ (drotrecogin alfa (activated)). Developed by Eli Lilly & Company, Xigris™ was approved in November 2001 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for adults with life-threatening severe sepsis - a blood disease that afflicts about 750,000 Americans each year, 215,000 of whom die as a result. Presenting the award was Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who was the recipient of the IPO Legislator of the Year award for his strong support of the intellectual property legislation passed by Congress in recent years.

Long came to the University of Vermont (UVM) in 1986 after working as a Senior Research Scientist at Eli Lilly & Company, where his laboratory work on the gene for human protein C and its role in controlling blood clotting and thrombosis earned him a patent and laid the foundation for Lilly's development of activated protein C through FDA approval.

"It is rewarding to see that work begun in my laboratory over 20 years ago has led to a treatment that is saving lives around the world," said Long. "I'm so honored to receive this award, and hope it will serve as an inspiration to other scientists doing important research in the basic sciences."

At the UVM College of Medicine, Long continues to look at human protein C as a factor in blood clotting and thrombosis. For the past 15 years, he has also done research to determine the molecular nature of mutations in the gene for this protein by looking at DNA from the blood of individuals who have hereditary thrombophilia - a propensity for inappropriate blood clot formation.

An ongoing, international study Long is conducting in collaboration with Edwin Bovill, M.D., professor and chair of the department of pathology, involves a large thrombophilic family from the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont. To date, Long and colleagues have identified over 700 people related to the original Northeast Kingdom family in Vermont, as well as Massachusetts, Kentucky, Florida, New York, and Quebec, Canada. Currently, Long is trying to establish whether or not six families in France are connected to the other families via genetic linkage studies - a process similar to the test performed to establish paternity - in which scientists examine patterns in the DNA in blood cells, using markers for the DNA to determine if people are related to each other. Long and Bovill, whose work in this area has been consistently funded through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, believe that a second, yet-to-be-identified gene exists in this family that is responsible for their thrombophilia. International collaborators on the project include researchers at Leiden University in Holland, University of Quebec in Canada, and Broussais Hospital in France, as well as the Human Genetics Group at the University of Utah.


Founded in 1972, IPO is the trade association that serves owners of patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets in all industries and fields of technology. IPO was established to broaden public understanding of intellectual property rights. Members include large and small businesses, universities, intellectual property attorneys, and independent inventors and authors. To be eligible for the Inventor of the Year Award, an invention must have been patented or first marketed in the past four years. Past winners include, Paul Macready for the "Gossamer Condor," a human-powered flying device, Robert Jarvik for the Jarvik Seven Artificial Heart, James L. Fergason for liquid crystal displays, and Amar G. Bose for a folded waveguide loudspeaker system.

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