Juliette Tinker, an associate professor in biological sciences at Boise State University, one of The Cores university research members and partners, was recently honored as an Idaho Innovation Awards winner by the Idaho Technology Council, Stoel Rives and Kickstand at the councils 2012 Hall of Fame Celebration.
Dr. Tinker won the Early-Stage Innovation of the Year award for her groundbreaking research on a vaccine to prevent the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. The research began over concern about MRSAs impact on production in dairy cows and has advanced to include MRSAs human implications.
MRSA infection is caused by a strain of Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections in humans and animals.
While research shows that hospital-acquired MRSA cases in the United States have been declining in recent years, cases picked up outside health care settings are on the rise. According to the journal Scientific American, such MRSA cases are likely transmitted from contact in a veterinary or medical setting and then passed along through a chain of others sneezing or contact. Some findings have also reported that the movement of staph between people and animals is greater than previously suspected.
MRSA remains a leading cause of opportunistic infection worldwide, adds upwards of $30 billion per year to what we spend on health care, and presents such a significant public health risk that it has been identified by the U.S. Center for Disease Control as a national priority for disease control. The cost to agribusiness of treating MRSA is incalculable.
Those familiar with MRSAs drug-resistant varieties understand that the rapidity with which the superbug evolves and spreads can have potentially devastating impacts on the quality of life of people and animals and on commerce.
Some scientists report that antibiotics, even when used appropriately, can contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria because they dont destroy every germ they target. Bacteria live on an evolutionary fast track, so germs that survive treatment with one antibiotic soon learn to resist others.
Dr. Tinker, who is working with Britni M. Arlian on the vaccine, believes the key given the elusive nature of the bacteria is found not in treatment but in prevention. Currently, MRSA is treated post-infection and the treatment is long term. Dr. Tinkers preventative vaccine candidate is delivered to the nose, mouth or skin to prevent mucosal colonization from occurring in the first place.
Dr. Tinker has a patent pending that is the only preventative vaccine candidate for staph and MRSA that can be delivered via the nose, mouth or skin. By cross linking innovation to research and economic growth, Dr. Tinkers novel vaccine has positive economic implications for the health care industry and agribusiness among other industry sectors. It also shows significant upside in the improvement in the quality of life for animal- and human-inoculated populations. That last factor presents a dream scenario for the emerging collaborative and multi-disciplinary research projects that are important at Boise State University and at the heart of The COREs mission to leverage existing assets and establish a core competency in health care and health-related research in Idaho.
Members of the Idaho health care community congratulate Dr. Tinker for this vital public health research. She is an outstanding professional and representative of the outstanding research being undertaken by The COREs university research partners.
Mary Andrews, director, Office of University and Industry Ventures Division of Research and Economic Development, Boise State University. firstname.lastname@example.org