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.