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April 15, 2021

Kalyanasundaram honored for inventing vaccine against parasites

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Dr. Kalyanasundaram
Dr. Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram

Dr. Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram was named 2020 Inventor of the Year by the University of Illinois at Chicago, announced UIC in February, for work to develop a vaccine against the human filarial parasite and the dog heartworm parasite.

Dr. Kalyanasundaram, a 1977 veterinary graduate of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Kerala, India, is assistant dean of research at UIC College of Medicine Rockford, where he is developing a vaccine against lymphatic filariasis, a tropical parasitic infection affecting over 120 million people worldwide. Few drug treatments are available for the disabling and disfiguring disease, which has a substantial impact in more than 40 countries.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $3 million grant to support Dr. Kalyanasundaram’s vaccine research. He has also received two NIH Small Business Innovation Research grants with collaborator PAI Life Sciences, a Seattle-based biotech company, aimed at developing a reliable and consistent manufacturing process so the vaccine can be moved toward Phase I clinical trials.

While researching the lymphatic filariasis vaccine in 2017, Dr. Kalyanasundaram discovered that the dog heartworm parasite Dirofilaria immitis and the human filarial parasite share 80% genome similarity. He has since completed preliminary studies in mice demonstrating that the vaccine against lymphatic filariasis had 100% efficacy in preventing challenge infection with D immitis.

In 2019, Dr. Kalyanasundaram began working with an industry partner to bring the vaccine to the veterinary market.

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