When University of the Sciences was founded 190 years ago, the goal was to establish the basis for the improved scientific standards in pharmacy. In 1821, those 68 prominent Philadelphia apothecaries who met in Carpenter's Hall to form what was to become Philadelphia College of Pharmacy had no idea that their endeavor would launch the careers of many entrepreneurial individuals and lead to the creation of some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
“Go back to where this university started, follow your DNA of entrepreneurship,” implored honorary degree recipient David R. King at the University’s Founders’ Day celebration on Feb. 17, 2011. “That DNA comes from being apart of this great institution. Think of the founders who we celebrate here today. Think of those graduates who went on to find six of the world’s largest pharma companies, just amazing.”
Dr. King was chosen by the University to receive an honorary degree because of his own entrepreneurial spirit and meeting the ideals of the University’s founders. He is currently a venture partner with Quaker BioVentures and his resume, which began with a 25 year career in law with Morgan Lewis, has been filled with entrepreneurial activities with who’s who in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries.
“One thing about my interaction with this great university is you are really at the pinnacle of the movement for translational research,” Dr. King said. “Moving what academia can do, quicker into the hands of what we do in industry…You understand that there is simply no more noble and enjoyable pursuit than ours – because at the end of the day you are focused on curing disease and eliminating suffering.”
The honorary degree presented in the McNeil Science and Technology Center before an audience of faculty in full ceremonial regalia as well as students, and guests, was among several highlights. Awards recognizing a current student and faculty member who represent the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the University’s founders, and who have engaged in research or some form of scholarly pursuit that results in new developments or discoveries, were also given.
Dr. Randy Zauhar, associate professor and graduate program director for bioinformatics, was selected as the 2011 faculty merit award winner. Dr. Zauhar has developed a number of research projects which focus on health-related applications and drug design. His work has attracted collaborators from both large and small pharmaceutical companies, including Astra Zeneca, Sanofi Aventis, Sepracor, Lifesensor, and Onconova. He most recently started a project with Dr. Paul Lieberman of the Wistar Institute and is leading the way in developing collaborative interactions with scientists at Wistar.
No less impressive was the student award winner, chemistry PhD candidate Thuy Hien Nguyen. A NASA fellowship recipient, Nguyen’s research led her to discover the mechanism of formation of ion channels in lipid bilayers by using coarse grained molecular dynamics simulations. Her experimentation produced her first author publication in the Journal of Chemistry and Physics of Lipids. She was recently awarded the top prize for graduate students at the ACS 11th Annual Student Poster session.
“The dramatic changes that we are seeing today simply creates dramatic opportunities,” Dr. King would say before the merit awards were announced. “Our industry needs a burst of entrepreneurial energy to solve all these challenges. Despite all the capital and other problems young companies have today, I am absolutely and religiously convinced that the enterprises that get spawned today will be amongst the most successful in their generation.”