Irvine, Calif., Dec. 18, 2020 — With research spanning Alzheimer’s disease to COVID-19, a University of California, Irvine biologist has been named a National Academy of Inventors 2020 Fellow. Charles Glabe, a distinguished professor of molecular biology & biochemistry, captured the honor, which recognizes academicians whose spirit of innovation has made a tangible difference in quality of life, economic development and society’s wellbeing. It is the organization’s highest professional distinction awarded solely to academic inventors.
Among Glabe’s achievements is the creation of antibodies that bind to the four kinds of proteins forming the amyloid associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The process enables scientists to detect individual forms of the disease more precisely.
“Because amyloids are comprised of four protein types, they cause the condition to manifest in varying ways,” said Glabe. “The age of onset, progression and symptoms are different.”
The antibodies, for which he holds a licensed patent, can be used as a screening tool and could help develop immunotherapies that slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s. Scientists have cited them in thousands of research publications.
Glabe has also invented a technique for examining hundreds of antibodies in an individual’s blood and identifying the disease-causing agents they target. He and his team are currently using the technique to compare findings among a group of COVID-19 patients with those without the disease to learn more about the body’s defenses.
“Many antibodies in our body are there because they were created in response to infections,” said Glabe. “However, we also have naturally-occurring antibodies, which are produced without previous infection and are a front line of attack against disease-causing agents. Until now, these antibodies have been poorly understood.”
Besides aiding in the development of potential COVID-19 treatments, the research could lead to new infectious disease prevention strategies. “Perhaps an antibody panel could become part of one’s annual checkup, just as cholesterol and other blood screenings are now,” he said. “We could identify patients who are sensitive to infections such as influenza, MRSA, secondary surgical site infections and others, and treat them accordingly.”
His appointment as a National Academy of Inventors Fellow underscores the importance of every scientist’s efforts. “We learn things all the time from research,” he said. “If a discovery is useful to you, it may be useful to someone else. This is how we all advance science together.”
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu