Inventor of the Year Bellur S. Prabhakar
Bellur S. Prabhakar
Inventor of the Year
Professor of microbiology and immunology, and associate dean of medicine
Years at UIC: 23
What are your research interests?
My primary area of research is immunology in general and immune regulation in particular because this area has tremendous implications both for cancer immunotherapy and treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus, arthritis, etc.
How did you become interested in these topics?
The natural defense against infections, environmental toxicants and cancer is our own immune system. I have always been fascinated by the possibility of harnessing our natural defenses to combat diseases. I am delighted that this has been realized, and we can readily cure a number of different cancers and effectively treat autoimmune diseases by modulating our own immune system.
What is your invention? How will it benefit people?
I have several inventions to my credit, and they include a vaccine platform to make vaccines more effective, therapeutic monoclonal antibodies against SARS, an anti-cancer treatment using gene silencing technology, and the most recent one is a platform technology that can be deployed to treat various autoimmune diseases. Two of my technologies have been licensed out and two others have been used to start two new companies. One is Jivana Therapeutics Inc. and the other is Sahane Biotech Inc.
Both companies have successfully completed most of the preclinical studies and are now moving toward completing studies required for FDA approval required to conduct clinical trials.
What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research/inventing devices to help people?
Most important character of an innovator is to be curious and ask lots of questions. Once you have an idea that is well considered, be relentless in its pursuit. Be resilient because invariably there will be setbacks. Build a team with complementary expertise to solve the problem. Do not listen to “NO” for an answer, as many people will tell you why your idea may not be commercially viable.