2020 Inventor of the Year Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram
Assistant Dean of Research
Professor and Head, Biomedical Sciences
University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford
Dr. Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford (UICOMR). In addition to his own laboratory research, he serves as head of the department of biomedical sciences and assistant dean of research. He also oversees the Master of Science in Medical Biotechnology Program at UICOMR.
“Ramaswamy has shown that years of scientific expertise and dedication with a sprinkle of serendipity can lead to a cure for a global health problem and appeal to dog lovers everywhere,” UIC Office of Technology Management director Suseelan Pookote said.
Dr. Kalyanasundaram has worked tirelessly to develop a vaccine against lymphatic filariasis, a tropical parasitic infection that that affects over 120 million people around the world. This disabling and disfiguring disease has significant impact in more than 40 countries where only a few drug treatments are available. He recently received a $3 million NIH grant to assess a new way to stop the spread of the disease with a vaccine that will actually prevent the parasite from being able to live in a person’s body. He has also received multiple SBIR grants with collaborator PAI Life Sciences aimed at developing a reliable and consistent manufacturing process of the vaccine that can be moved towards Phase I clinical trials.
Kalyanasundaram has shown that the dog heartworm parasite and the human filarial parasite share 80 percent genome similarity. After preliminary studies in the mouse model demonstrated 100% efficacy in preventing infection with D. immitis, the parasite that causes heartworm disease, Kalyanasundaram conducted safety and efficacy studies in dogs. The studies showed that the vaccine successfully prevents heartworm disease in dogs. In 2019, Dr. Kalyanasundaram began working with an industry partner to bring the vaccine to the veterinary market.
“Dr. Kalyanasundarum’s work represents the type of translation research our faculty are recognized for,” said TJ Augustine, UIC vice chancellor for innovation. “The research faculty at University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford continue to achieve critical therapeutic breakthroughs. Ramaswamy’s recognition is well-deserved and reinforces UIC’s continued need to support transformational partnerships that encourage commercialization.”
The UIC Inventor of the Year award recognizes an outstanding inventor at UIC who has contributed to the development of intellectual property that significantly impacts their field and society. Kalyanasundaram is among the more than 25 faculty to be recognized as the UIC Inventor of the Year for their outstanding commercially focused research. The award is given based on the criteria of creativity, novelty, and the commercial benefit to society.
For more information on OTM, the Inventor of the Year, and past awardees, visit the OTM website at otm.uic.edu.