College Creates New Center; Names Thorson Director

Oct 31, 2011

The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy has created the Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI), recruiting Dr. Jon Thorson to the College to serve as CPRI’s inaugural director.

As a new center within the College, CPRI will serve as a catalyst for drug discovery and development research and accelerate the translation of these findings from the bench to the bedside to the community. The Center will work with researchers throughout the University community to create new synergies around drug discovery and development.

Thorson comes to UK from the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, where he served as Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences. At UK, he will serve as Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and he has also been appointed as the UKCMC Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation.

“These are two significant additions for the UK College of Pharmacy,” said UK College of Pharmacy Dean Tim Tracy. “CPRI will add a great deal of value to our research enterprise, while helping us take our innovative findings to the marketplace. I’m ecstatic to have Dr. Jon Thorson join our team. One of the brightest pharmaceutical scientists in the world, he will be a great asset to our already talented team.”

Thorson’s research is focused on developing antibiotics and anticancer drugs from natural products. His lab develops complex biosynthetic pathways that allow bacteria, fungi and other plants to develop new drugs he hopes will someday be ready to fight human disease. Thorson’s research is currently funded through extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health.

He is also the co-founder of a start-up company in Madison, Wisc. called Centrose. Centrose is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of therapies for the treatment of cancer and other hard-to-treat diseases.

“The opportunity to lead the University of Kentucky Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation is a terrific honor,” said Thorson, who started at UK October 31. “UK College of Pharmacy has it all – world-class students, faculty and facilities. I’m thrilled to be part it.”

Building and developing CPRI alongside UK’s faculty and staff will be Thorson’s first focus. He said CPRI will help enhance the competitiveness of UK faculty in securing federal research funding in the area of drug discovery and development, while building upon the College’s strong tradition of educating high-quality graduate students and post-doctoral fellows for careers in drug discovery and development.

“The Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation will be a terrific addition to our campus research community,” said James W. Tracy, UK’s Vice President for Research. “By harnessing our drug discovery and development expertise across campus, we can be more effective and efficient in not only discovering new drugs but bringing those discoveries to the marketplace.”

He also hopes, however, that CPRI will fill the “commercialization gap” by elevating basic drug discovery and development ideas to a “proof of principle” stage that will better prepare UK to partner with those in the pharmaceutical industry. Thorson’s experience with Centrose in moving academic research projects to the stage of commercialization is a terrific fit with this vision.

“As Kentucky’s land-grant institution, UK must be focused on creating new professional opportunities for its students and alumni,” said Thorson. “My belief is that CPRI can help do that for those students and graduates interested in exploring an exciting career in the pharmaceutical industry – right here in Kentucky.”

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