Press Release: The Value of Intellectual Property

Research by CUNY Ph.D. Alum and Colleagues Nets Big Rewards


An important AIDS treatment drug discovered by City University of New York Graduate Center alumnus Dennis C. Liotta and two colleagues has brought Emory University $540 million, possibly the largest payment ever made to a university for intellectual property.

The drug, Emtricitabine, was discovered by Liotta along with fellow Emory faculty member Dr. Raymond F. Schinazi and former Emory researcher Dr. Woo-Baeg Choi. It is used for the treatment of HIV infection in combination with other antiretroviral agents.

Currently Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry at Emory, Liotta received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Graduate Center in 1974. He was mentored by Professor Robert Engel of Queens College, where he had received his undergraduate degree in 1970. Professors Norman L. Goldman and Burton Tropp of Queens and Robert Lichter of Hunter College were also members of his Dissertation Committee. His postdoctoral work was at Ohio State University from 1974 to 1976. He has been an Emory professor for 29 years, and along the way to his current position he has served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Vice President for Research at Emory. Among numerous honors, awards, and fellowships, he is the recipient of the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award for the Natural Sciences, which is the highest teaching award given by the University; is a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; the recipient of a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Fellowship; and won an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the 2005 Herty Award. While at Emory, he has authored more than two hundred research publications and patents.

He and Schinazi have been collaborating on AIDS research for nearly two decades, and in 2003 they jointly received the Biomedical Industry Growth Award from the Georgia Biomedical Partnership. Liotta also serves as the director of the Drug Discovery Program at Emory's Winship Cancer Center and is a consultant to several pharmaceutical companies. Recently, he formed a drug company in South Africa, where anti-HIV drugs are critically needed.

The royalty rights to Emitricitabine are being purchased from Emory by Gilead Sciences and Royalty Pharma. The proceeds will primarily go to the university, with the three scientists receiving a share. Schinazi is a pediatrics professor and also with the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Choi is currently CEO of FOB Synthesis.

Emory's share of the transaction will be reinvested in the university's research mission following the terms of the Bayh-Dole Act passed by Congress in 1980 to encourage commercialization of federally funded research. Much of the research was funded by NIH.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York. The only consortium of its kind in the nation, the school draws its faculty of more than 1,700 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges.

Established in 1961, The Graduate Center has grown to an enrollment of about 4,000 students in 31 doctoral programs and six master's degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. According to the most recent National Research Council report, more than a third of The Graduate Center's rated Ph.D. programs rank among the nation's top 20 at public and private institutions. The Graduate Center also houses 28 research centers and institutes, administers the CUNY Baccalaureate Program as well as a number of other university-wide academic programs, and offers a wide range of continuing education and cultural programs of interest to the general public.

Submitted on: AUG 1, 2005

Category: Chemistry, Press Room