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Professor’s Research Leads to UNCP’s First Patent

Ben Bahr, Ph.D., with one of his several UNCP student researchers that have received or are working towards their doctoral degree. Student photoed with Bahr is Joanna Cooper, Ph.D. Photo/Ben Bahr.

Ben Bahr, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and biochemistry, recently received a patent for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and other traumatic brain diseases. Bahr has been with the school since 2009 and runs the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Lab at UNCP’s Biotechnology Center.

“We had the idea that there must be a pathway that tries to help repair the brain and we found drugs, and even natural products that help enhance that pathway. They’re like little garbage disposals, these pathways. The drugs that we have makes these little garbage disposals work harder,” he explained.

“We put these ideas into a patent because a lot of companies are stopping their Alzheimer’s programs because they spend a lot of money doing drug development and then the clinical trials fail. We wanted to make sure that this new idea was out there in case the companies want to try it.”

The university owns the patent, US 10,702,571, under its intellectual property policy for work conducted on university time and with university resources. According to a university press release, the patent also includes compounds formulated from Bahr’s previously patented work with Dennis Wright, Ph.D. at University of Connecticut.

“You must understand there are many types of scientists from all backgrounds and many different countries. People need to appreciate what it takes to develop a drug,” said Bahr, highlighting the collective effort that goes into biomedical research.

Bahr expressed optimism in this newly patented treatment method, which consists of a combination of certain drugs and natural products that are in food to enhance the repair pathways to the brain.

“I am hoping this promotes collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry because those are the companies with the big dollars that help research move forward. We want to show pharmaceutical companies that UNCP has patented information which is exclusive technology that we get to use for the next 10-15 years,” Bahr said regarding the patent’s potential impact on UNCP.

Bahr explained that Alzheimer’s and dementia are essentially the same thing. The difference is that dementia is the symptoms of loss of mental function. This could come from strokes, car accidents, etc. Alzheimer’s is simply the most common form of dementia.

Bahr has followed work from other laboratories who have done brain scans on patients with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and has noticed that those scans look very similar to brain scans of Alzheimer patients. CTE is commonly found in football players and military personnel.

Because of his research, Bahr received grant funding from the U.S. Army five years ago to test whether blasts can create early signs of the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. These tests were conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Bahr’s lab had applied for two patents previously. He and his staff learned from the first two attempts to supply enough evidence and data to satisfy the United States Patent Office. Originally submitted in 2016, Dr. Bahr received news of the patent being approved the second week of July 2020.


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