A January 2011 Wichita TV news story focused on COBRE Investigator James Bann and a patent he recently received. The news report on KSN Channel 3 in Wichita told about how the patent held in part by the Wichita State University associate professor of chemistry concerns a protein he helped develop. Researchers hope that the protein could someday be used as an anthrax vaccine or anti-toxin.The patent is the result of research conducted by Bann, WSU undergraduate and graduate students, and Harvard University's R. John Collier, a leader in anthrax research.
The unique protein essentially blocks how anthrax spreads in the body. Bann became involved in this research in early 2005. He wanted to understand how one of the components of the anthrax toxin – a protective antigen – made a pore inside of animal and human cells. The pore is essential in making anthrax toxic.
Bann's research group decided to test a hypothesis by incorporating an amino acid called fluorohistidine into the protective antigen. The result of the research showed that key steps in the process of toxicity became blocked, protecting cells from the lethal effects of the toxin.
The patent that Bann received protects the idea of using fluorohistidine as a therapeutic against anthrax, and anyone wanting to use the idea would require a license from Wichita State. If it were to become commercially available, WSU would obtain a share of the profits from the sale.
"There's still a long ways to go in terms of being able to actually use it therapeutically, but I think it will hopefully work,” said Dr. Bann.
A 2001 anthrax attack in the United States killed five people and created a wave of research from those hoping to better protect people against any future attacks. There’s already an anthrax vaccine, but it comes with side effects. The WSU research group says their work could change that.
"Potentially this could, this particular protective antigen, could be used as a vaccine, could prevent those side affects from happening,” Dr. Bann said.
Bann is planning to work with the University of Kansas' Russ Middaugh, an expert in protective antigen vaccine formulation, to determine whether this could be useful as a vaccine and as an antitoxin.