The University of Central Florida Research Foundation has licensed a promising diagnostic test to an international biopharmaceutical company that is developing a treatment for Crohn’s disease.

Saleh Naser, a professor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences in UCF’s College of Medicine, developed the patented technology to test for the MAP bacterium (Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis). It is estimated that nearly half of the people who suffer from Crohn’s disease have MAP in their system.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract affecting about 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. There is no cure for the painful disorder.

Naser received a U.S. patent in 2009 for his method of detecting MAP from blood samples.  He has spent more than 20 years researching Crohn’s disease and has published papers suggesting that MAP is an underlying cause of the disorder.

RedHill Biopharma Ltd., an emerging Israeli biopharmaceutical company, licensed Naser’s technology to strengthen its portfolio of medications that fight Crohn’s. RedHill is developing a drug, RHB-104, which is intended to treat Crohn’s patients who have MAP bacterium, considered to be one of the possible causes of the disease.

As part of the agreement, RedHill will use Naser’s technology to screen Crohn’s patients for MAP infection to determine whether RHB-104 would serve as an effective treatment option.

The company is preparing two parallel clinical trials in Europe and the U.S with RHB-104 for the treatment of Crohn’s patients who are MAP-infected.

“Patients will benefit the most because of this breakthrough since it will advance the diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s disease,” Naser said of the diagnostic technology he created.

Patrick Mclean, RHB-104 Product Manager for Redhill, said that acquisition represents a “key milestone” in the continuous development of a new treatment for Crohn’s patients.

“The UCF team of researchers, led by Dr. Saleh Naser, is a global academic leader in MAP detection research, and we are grateful to have been given the opportunity to cooperate with them,” Mclean said.

MJ Soileau, UCF’s vice president for research and commercialization, said the agreement between the company and the university could hasten development of a treatment.

Soileau said that the partnership with RedHill was helped by a trade mission led by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission last spring that put Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other business leaders including Thad Seymour, vice president and general manager, Health & Life Sciences at Lake Nona Property Holdings, in touch with some of Israel’s leading defense, airline, life sciences, simulation and energy companies.