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Research Communications

Kopchick receives Ohio Patent Impact Award 

Scientist recognized for development of growth hormone drug


April 3, 2012

Ohio University scientist John Kopchick will receive the Ohio Patent Impact Award for his contributions to the development of a drug that treats acromegaly, a growth hormone disorder related to gigantism that affects thousands of people worldwide.

“I am awestruck by such a prestigious award. It is sincerely humbling,” said Kopchick, who is known as an international expert on growth hormone and its impact on health and aging.

The Ohio Academy of Science and the Ohio State Bar Association give the annual award to inventors with patents that have significantly impacted the state of Ohio through positive changes measured by economic, social change, health benefits, growth of new industries, jobs and other factors. The organizations will present the award at a ceremony at Ashland University on April 14.

 John Kopchick
John Kopchick

In addition to Kopchick, William Beale, founder of Sunpower Inc., of Athens, will receive the 2012 Ohio Patent Legacy Award, which recognizes inventors with a prolific number of patents. Beale, a former Ohio University faculty member, holds 26 patents for the invention in 1971 of the Free-Piston Stirling Engine. The organizations also will recognize John Nottingham, John Spirk and colleagues of Nottingham Spirk of Cleveland, who invented an electric toothbrush that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of the SpinBrush® for Proctor and Gamble and Arm and Hammer.

In 1987, Kopchick, the Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular Biology at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and former graduate student Wen Chen discovered the growth hormone receptor antagonist, which blocks the action of the hormone.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug based on the discovery, pegvisomant, for use in 2003. The Pfizer corporation distributes and markets the drug as SOMAVERT® (pegvisomant for injection,) as a treatment for acromegaly. The condition is a form of gigantism marked by excessive levels of growth hormone that result in enlargement of the hands and feet, facial disfiguration and multiple organ disorders, which can lead to premature death. About 40,000 individuals are diagnosed with acromegaly worldwide.

Ohio University and its inventors have received more than $73.5 million in royalty income from the license to Pfizer to date. In 2011, the royalty income stream was monetized, which may generate up to $13 million in additional revenue over the next five years. The royalty income has supported faculty and student research in biomedical science and has enhanced Ohio University’s program in technology commercialization over the last decade.

“The technology’s impact extends beyond the bedside; it also will have long lasting effects on Ohio University, with royalty revenues helping to fund new faculty partnerships at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and a new translational biomedicine PhD program,” said David Wight, director of the Edison Biotechnology Institute and one of the individuals who nominated Kopchick for the award.

The successful development of the growth hormone receptor antagonist into a drug that treats thousands of patients around the globe is a prime example of Ohio University’s efforts to bring faculty inventions into the marketplace, said Joseph Shields, vice president for research and creative activity and dean of the Graduate College at Ohio University.

“Ohio University has built a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem that is developing new technologies in the areas of bioscience, energy, environmental remediation, transportation and digital media,” Shields said. “Our goal is to create high-tech companies and jobs in the underserved area of Appalachian Ohio.”