By Wendy Sarubbi | October 3, 2011 10:44 am

Thanks to the work of a professor at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, the University of Central Florida Research Foundation has licensed a promising diagnostic test to an international company developing a treatment for Crohn’s disease.

Burnett school professor Saleh Naser developed the patented technology to test for the MAP bacterium (Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis). It is estimated that nearly half of the people who suffer from Crohn’s disease have MAP in their system.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract affecting about 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. There is no cure for the painful disorder.

Dr. Naser received a U.S. patent in 2009 for his method of detecting MAP from blood samples. He has spent more than 20 years researching Crohn’s disease and has published papers suggesting that MAP is an underlying cause of the disorder.

RedHill Biopharma Ltd., an emerging Israeli biopharmaceutical company, licensed Dr. Naser’s technology to strengthen its portfolio of medications that fight Crohn’s. RedHill is developing a drug, RHB-104, which is intended to treat Crohn’s patients who have MAP bacterium, considered to be one of the possible causes of the disease.

As part of the agreement, RedHill will use Dr. Naser’s technology to screen Crohn’s patients for MAP infection to determine whether RHB-104 would serve as an effective treatment option. The company is preparing two clinical trials in Europe and the U.S.

“Patients will benefit the most because of this breakthrough since it will advance the diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s disease,” Dr. Naser said of the diagnostic technology he created.

Patrick Mclean, RHB-104 product Manager for Redhill, praised the College of Medicine team led by Dr. Naser, calling the research group “a global academic leader in MAP detection research. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to cooperate with them.”

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