Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU, professor receive patent for adjuvant that boosts immune system

January 12, 2012

While conducting research on cancer, Swapan Ghosh and a team of graduate and doctoral students discovered a phytol-derived adjuvant. That adjuvant formula just became U.S. Patent No. 8,088,395.

"I'm so excited," said Ghosh, Indiana State University professor of biology, about the completion of the process that began in 2006. The patent is in place for 24 years and the university will now begin marketing it to pharmaceutical companies. "We believe that this adjuvant will be useful in humans. We think this is possibly one of the best in boosting the immune system."

Vaccines, which are used to enhance an immune system, need an agent - an adjuvant - to assist in deploying them. Alum has been widely used for years, but has come under attack as a possible cause for neurological disorders.

"A few adjuvants have been discovered, but they have side effects. We were trying to develop something that has fewer side effects, but boosts the immune system," Ghosh said. "Our compound is an excellent boost to the immune system and we haven't detected any side effects."

The compound could be used to boost immunity in cancer patients, in veterinary clinics, aid in fighting infectious agents and be used in preparing laboratory agents and diagnostic kits, Ghosh said.

Chlorophyll creates the green color in green vegetables and one of its two components is phytol.

"Phytol is one of the most widely occurring natural compounds," Ghosh said. "People have tried phytol as an adjuvant, but it can be toxic. We used chemically modified phytol compounds."

Chemistry professors Richard Kjonaas and Richard Fitch assisted in modifying the compound. Students, from undergraduates to doctoral, have also worked on the project gaining real-world research experience with their education.

The adjuvant builds on a previous find by Ghosh and his team of students. That find resulted in patent number 7,642,045 for a biomarker that could aid in determining disease.

"This compliments the previous one in which we could monitor the progress in the activation of the immune system," Ghosh said.

When they monitored dendritic cells, a type of white blood cell, that could be y activated by phytol adjuvants. Ghosh and the university have another patent pending on the biomarkers for immune activation.

Research on the adjuvant has been published in the peer-reviewed journals BMC Immunology (2011), Cellular Immunology (2011), The Open Vaccine Journal (2010) and the Journal of Immune-Based Therapies and Vaccines (2006).

Cutline: Swapan Ghosh, Indiana State University professor of biology.

Contact: Swapan Ghosh, Indiana State University, professor of biology, at 812-237-2416 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or