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FAMU Professor Awarded U.S. Patent to Identify Bacteria Stains

Marlon S. Thomas, bioengineer and professor in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, was awarded United States Patent No. 8,252,522 for his research development in species detection methods and systems.

Bacterial infections continue to be one of the major health risks in this country and timing in successfully diagnosing life-threatening ailments contributes to the high cost of health care and patient mortality.

Thomas, after six years of research, has invented a new method to quickly identify bacteria stains by using chemical dyes and fluorescent assays. The patent is a significant breakthrough to better monitor health conditions through providing methods, systems and kits for cellular and sub cellular identification in a rapid, throughput manner.

Thomas explained the significance and impact of the new patent on the medical profession.

“The goal in any health care emergency, such as food poisoning and contamination, is to quickly identify the root of the problem at hand in order to diagnosis the best remedy,” said Thomas. “The patent holds the potential to provide the means to better manage chronic diseases for physicians and health care professionals. The new staining method will someday in the near future impact the general public with point of care detection that can be used in the privacy of the home.”

His patent method requires no equipment or electricity, which makes it easier to incorporate into the current process of bacterial identification.

His work was a part of his dissertation at the University of California in Riverside, Calif. where he earned his Ph.D. Thomas is hopeful that the patent will be adopted into an assay and brought into the standing procedures of bacterial identification as what is called an “add on” to the standard method which was developed by Hans Christian Gram nearly 130 years ago.

Thomas credits Valentine I. Vullev, who served as his Ph.D. advisor, and Elizabeth R. Zielins, who was one of his undergraduate students at the University of California at Riverside, for assisting him with this patent.

Since receiving the patent, Thomas has continued his research and is working on two additional patents for new tools that will also help manage chronic diseases. His research combines his interest in microfluidics, biophotonics, surface chemistry and bioengineering.

Robert Taylor, dean and director of Land-Grant Programs in CAFS expressed, “This is the epitome of the land-grant concept under which FAMU was established! Faculty train students through academic study and scientific discoveries made to change life for the better for all. We are very proud of this significant accomplishment made by one of FAMU’s own.”

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