Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Also Runs Biopharmaceutical Company

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Also Runs Biopharmaceutical Company

Article excerpt

As a professor and researcher dedicated to medical advancements, Dr. William Hildebrand feared an old adage - that if he started a company to commercialize his discoveries, the research in his labs would die.

"People told me I would become a businessman in science and would no longer be a scientist," he said. "I've been able to remain a scientist, but I'm a scientist with a business interest."

Hildebrand is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and in 1999 he founded Pure Protein, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in immunology tools. It was the first company to commercialize after the passage of State Questions 680 and 681, which allow a researcher to use university resources while letting the university have equity in the company.

In the time since, Hildebrand has been able to commercialize several of his discoveries, such as improving transplant outcomes and screening blood supplies for transfusions, which gives him the financial resources to focus on longer-term goals, like discovering markers for diseased cells.

Hildebrand's overall research focuses on the body's surveillance system as it responds to transplantation, autoimmunity, viruses and cancer.

"Every cell in your body has an alarm system on it, just as your house or car has an alarm system," Hildebrand said. "We want to know, when there's a virus inside your cell, what alarm do you sound? If you have cancer, how do you distinguish the breast cancer- infected cell from the healthy cell? You have an alarm system and it's responsible for distinguishing virus-infected cells and cancerous cells from health cells. We study that alarm system to learn that information."

The alarms that alert the body to unhealthy cells are considered good alarms, Hildebrand said. But false alarms can be sounded too, which occurs with lupus, diabetes or a when a body rejects a transplant or blood transfusion. Determining why false alarms occur is part of his research as well.

Making money with several of his discoveries lets Hildebrand continue his work on long-term goals, including vaccines. Among his current commercialization successes is improving the outcome of transplants, whether bone marrow or organ. …

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