Among the nominees for Inventor of the Year 2014 in the "Chemistry and Biotechnology" category were the professors at the Medical University in Plovdiv, Prof. Dr. Mariana Murdjeva (from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology) and Associate Professor Marian Draganov (from the Department of Biology) for the patent “Persistent cell line strain for diagnostic purposes”.
Prof. Murdjeva, what are your impressions of the "Inventor of the Year" ceremony?
- The "Inventor of the Year" ceremony was a great emotion for all the nominees. It was organized for the third year in a row by the Central Patent Office with Prof. Kamen Veselinov as chairman. It was also attended by the Director General of the European Patent Office, François-Rvjis Anard.
First, the nominees were announced in the "Chemistry and Biotechnologies" category, which also includes our patent with Prof. Draganov. There were also two other very interesting inventions in this category. One belongs to the team of Prof. Vladko Panayotov - a method for cleaning harmful exhaust gas emissions and turning them into non-toxic products. The third invention belongs to the BAS team led by Prof. Pavlinka Dolashka - for a biological product that is obtained from snails and has an immunostimulating and antitumor effect.
Of the three nominees, the "Inventor of the Year" award was won by Vladko Panayotov and Milena Panayotova. Their achievement was very worthy, I sincerely congratulated the colleagues.
What does your invention consist of?
- Prof. Draganov and I created a cell line, a system of human cells that we adapted to develop in conditions without the addition of serum. Calf serum is a mandatory ingredient for all cells that are cultured in laboratory conditions (in vitro) and used for diagnostic purposes - for culturing bacteria and viruses from various patient samples. When we aim to prove the presence of such viruses and bacteria as the causative agents of infections, we examine patient samples on such cells. The significance of our invention is that
we achieved cell culture,
without presence of serum.
Why is it so important in diagnostics not to use serum?
- Because serum is a very expensive and volatile ingredient, and it is difficult to extract. Calf serum is obtained from calf embryos. You can imagine the complexity of this process - first to extract blood from calf embryos, then to purify the serum, and finally to use it as a mandatory product in laboratory practice. That's why we adapted the cells without the presence of serum, which makes the system cheaper, and the cells grow beautifully in these conditions.
What practical applications does this cell system have?
- We have tried this chlamydia diagnostic system. Chlamydia are bacteria that cause many diseases, including sexually transmitted infections. With our invention, we support the diagnosis of chlamydia.
She is just as accurate,
as in cell systems with serum, only cheaper.
Can your invention be applied to other diagnostic purposes?
- We have another patent before this one where we use a similar cell line, again cultured without serum, to diagnose molecules causing autoimmune diseases. These are the so-called autoantibodies that cause diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. So far, we are the only ones using this serum-free cell line for the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases. In principle, cells with serum are used in many immunological laboratories for the diagnosis of autoantibodies (antinuclear antibodies).
What depends on your patents being widely used for medical purposes?
- It depends on a manufacturer to be interested and undertake this production.
Furthermore, the application of a serum-free cell line - either for chlamydia or autoantibody research - requires a specialized laboratory, a slightly higher competence of personnel, and also equipment. So the method is limited to be performed only in highly specialized laboratories. Our dream is for our invention to be used in diagnostics.