Robert Vince, Ph.D.


Dr. Robert Vince is a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. He obtained a B.S. degree in Pharmacy in 1962 and a Ph.D. Degree in Medicinal Chemistry in 1966, both from the College of Pharmacy at SUNY Buffalo. For his graduate research he received the Lunsford Richardson Research Award by Richardson-Merrell Inc. From 1966 to 1967 he was an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Mississippi and in 1967 he joined the Medicinal Chemistry Faculty at the University of Minnesota, where he has been ever since. In 2002 he became the Director of the Center for Drug Design within the Academic Health Center of the University of Minnesota. He has been honored for his work by a career development award from NIH (1972-1976), was the 1979 University of Minnesota Scholar of the year, and received a Certificate of Commendation by the Minnesota Governor (1989). in recognition of achievements as an inventor, was honored for outstanding contributions to research and development by the Minnesota Medical Alley, was elected as Fellow of the AAAS (2000), and received the Outstanding Alumni Award of the New York Cayuga Community College (2002). During President Bush’s 2002 visit to Minneapolis, Robert Vince was selected to speak with him about his research and inventions. He was recognized on “Scholars Walk and Wall of Discovery” at the University of Minnesota in 2006.

Professor Vince’s scientific contributions and eclectic approach to solving problems have focused on unique approaches to the development of novel chemotherapeutic agents. He has co-authored over 110 scientific publications and holds 23 patents. His research was funded by the National Cancer Institute without interruption from 1971 to 1998, when Professor Vince was able to fund his research from licensing income. It is highly unusual for a drug candidate from an academic laboratory to make it through the extremely competitive pharmaceutical drug development process to the point of becoming a new drug. Professor Vince was involved in it twice. The drug, AcyclovirTM, that has been the standard treatment for Herpes infections, is a member of the acyclonucleoside family pioneered by Robert Vince and Professor Howard J. Schaeffer at SUNY Buffalo. Professor Vince's most notable achievement, however, is his design of the carbocyclic nucleosides termed "carbovirs", agents that were later developed into the anti-HIV drug, ZiagenTM that is marketed worldwide by GlaxoSmithKline for the treatment of AIDS in adults and children. The carbovirs were the first series of agents that showed significant activity against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B Virus. In 1987, the National Cancer Institute Decision Network Committee for Preclinical Development (chaired by Dr. Bruce Chabner), selected the carbovirs, the first of the anti-HIV compounds that were specifically designed for inhibiting the AIDS virus, for accelerated preclinical development. The University of Minnesota (UM) licensed the carbovir drugs to Glaxo Pharmaceutical Company in 1988. However, due to circumstances beyond the control of the University of Minnesota, the development of the drug was delayed and did not make it to market until 1998. This discovery has led to sixteen U.S. patents and several foreign patents. Sales of the drug continue to rise with last year's sales exceeding $850,000,000. The starting chemical for the production of this drug and other carbocyclic nucleosides was developed by Professor Vince's laboratory in the late 1970's. This material, referred to as "Vince's Lactam" is produced in metric ton quantities by several chemical companies.

The impact on science education is a secondary benefit to Professor Vince’s invention. The University of Minnesota has received approximately 250 million dollars in royalties from GlaxoSmithKline from worldwide sales of ZiagenTM. A large part of these royalties were used by the University to set up the Strategic Research Fund, the Strategic Research Endowment, the Graduate Fellowship fund, and the Graduate Fellowship Endowment, as well as the Robert Vince Endowed Chair. The University has also supported Dr. Vince's creation of the Center for Drug Design that provides positions for faculty and fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Center provides an excellent collaborative research environment, and has state-of-the-art medicinal chemistry research and drug development capabilities.

For 35 years Professor Vince has taught medicinal chemistry to undergraduate pharmacy students, medicinal chemistry graduate students and postdocs at the University of Minnesota. He has advised a large number of doctoral and postdoctoral students in his laboratory, who have gone on to very productive careers. Professor Vince has served on various committees within the College of Pharmacy, and the University of Minnesota, where he helped shape university policy on intellectual property and royalty distribution. He served on various study sections of the National Institute of Health, serves on the editorial board for Nucleosides and Nucleotides, and has been a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. Professor Robert Vince has combined excellence in research and teaching by carrying out outstanding medicinal chemistry research and by training several generations of students to become excellent scientists in their own rights. He has succeeded in doing what very few academic scientists and not many industrial scientists accomplish, and royalty income from his inventions has enabled the creation of a Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota that has already gained international reputation for excellence in medicinal chemistry research.