Table of Contents
Microbiologist Honored by UT System for Lyme Disease Test
Steven J. Norris, Ph.D., a microbiologist at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, was one of the winners of the inaugural UT System Chancellor's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award for his role in the development of a Lyme Disease test.
The awards were announced Feb. 27 in Austin at the first UT System Research and Technology Transfer Showcase, which featured the most recent inventions created by researchers and scientists from all 15 UT institutions.
Norris, the Robert Greer Professor of Biomedical Sciences, and a collaborator, Alan G. Barbour, M.D. - formerly of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and now at the University of California, Irvine - were honored in the category recognizing research developed at multiple institutions in the UT System. The two will share a $15,000 cash prize.
"This technology has improved the diagnosis of Lyme Disease in North America and Eurasia, providing a classic example of translational research resulting in considerable improvements in the quality of life for at-risk patients," said James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center at Houston, who nominated Norris.
Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, a tick-transmitted illness affecting tens of thousands in the United States. Its symptoms include tiredness, chills, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash resembling a bulls-eye. If left untreated, arthritis, severe headaches and other neurological effects often occur.
Research by Norris and Barbour on a specific protein (called VlsE) and its effect on immune responses led to the development of the diagnostic test, which has been patented and licensed to 11 companies for use both domestically and internationally.
Norris has been a faculty member at the UT Medical School since 1982 and is currently vice chairman of research and professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. He also holds a faculty position in the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.
"Dr. Norris has been a solid citizen at UT now for a number of years," said Robert L. Hunter Jr., M.D., Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and holder of the Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pathology at the UT Medical School.
The Scientist magazine recently described the UT System as a "patent powerhouse" and ranked it second in the nation in terms of quantity and quality of patents. Over the past five years, UT System institutions and their researchers have launched 66 new companies and secured 553 U.S. patents.
"Invention and the zeal to produce life-changing breakthroughs are the hallmarks of scientific research, and our institutions have been leaders in both," UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof said. "We are committed to keeping innovation a priority, and our standing in research on the world scale bears that out."
Bruce D. Butler, Ph.D., the UT Health Science Center's assistant vice president for research and technology, accepted the award in Austin on behalf of Norris, who was attending a scientific meeting.
By Rob Cahill, Institutional Advancement
Previous story Next story