Professor with a patent

What used to take hours in the lab can now be done almost instantly, thanks to Mikhail Bobylev’s newly patented method for the synthesis of new agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Bobylev, an associate professor of chemistry at Minot State University, obtained the United States patent in December, though he first applied for it in 2008.

The new method of synthesis was developed when Bobylev was looking for a faster process to develop anti-fungal compounds that can be used to counterract fungal diseases in humans as well as fungi that threaten plant life.

Fungal infections can threaten the lives of people with impaired immune systems, such as those who have received an organ transplant or are receiving chemotherapy for cancer. Fungal diseases also wipe out an entire crop, as happened during the Irish potato famine during the 1840s, and spread via air until it threatens crops across the country. Soybean rust is an emerging threat.

The old method of synthesizing those compounds takes several hours. Bobylev’s method, which he said involved some alterations in temperature and the propotions of the chemicals used, reduces the time spent from as long as five hours down to about five minutes. Reducing the time spent also could potentially save on energy costs, wear on equipment and free up time to do other projects, said Bobylev.

Bobylev hopes that the recognition he receives from his patented method may make it easier for him to obtain more grant funding to continue his ongoing research and to obtain future patents.

In his native Russia, Bobylev obtained 16 or 18 patents for his research and he also held one in Finland. This is his first U.S. patent and it will help him build his professional reputation as an inventor in this country, said Bobylev, who also hopes to obtain future U.S. patents. Bobylev came to the U.S. 20 years ago from Russia and has worked at Minot State University for 10 years.

Bobylev also plans to submit articles on the new synthesis method to scientific journals over the next few years.

Bobylev said his patented method could potentially have commercial uses, particularly for a researcher just starting out. However, he said any commercial uses would depend on companies taking an interest. Many companies likely already use a different method and it could be costly for them to change.

Bobylev said his undergraduate student researchers have given more than 100 presentations related to this research, including at 20 national conventions. He is proud of their accomplishments and how hard they have worked.

Bobylev is the first Minot State University professor to be awarded a patent. He said he obtained some initial assistance in the patenting method from the University of North Dakota but, since 2011, has navigated the process by himself.

Though the process was expensive as well as long, Bobylev is pleased to have finally obtained the patent.