April 15, 2021
Kalyanasundaram honored for inventing vaccine against parasites
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.