Dr. Patrick J. Sinko, the Parke-Davis Endowed Chair and Professor II in Pharmaceutics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has recently been awarded a five year continuation on his prestigious National Institute of Health MERIT award. His research endeavors have the potential to not only improve the lives of people living with HIV and affected by cancer, but may also help improve the economy of New Jersey as well.
Dr. Sinko and his team of researchers at Rutgers are developing novel anti-AIDS drug delivery systems that selectively target immune cells infected by HIV. His laboratory, located in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy on Rutgers’ Busch Campus in Piscataway, NJ, involves a large group of researchers focused on the design, fabrication, and evaluation of molecular-scale drug and diagnostic delivery technologies applied broadly to AIDS, asthma, breast and lung cancer, and chemical counterterrorism.
Rutgers currently has four MERIT awardees, including Dr. Sinko. NIH MERIT awards are given to a select number of funded investigators (<5%) who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity during their previous research endeavors and are leaders in their field with paradigm-shifting ideas. The objective of the MERIT Award is to provide long-term, stable support to investigators in order to foster their continued creativity and to spare them the administrative burdens associated with frequently preparing and submitting research grant applications. This allows investigators like Dr. Sinko the opportunity to take greater risks, to be more adventurous in their lines of inquiry, and to take more time to develop new techniques. During the past 20 years at Rutgers, Dr. Sinko has attracted more than $22 million in research support from industry and government funders. His group currently has several additional NIH-funded projects for the development of a nanocarrier-based vaginal hydrogel to prevent HIV transmission, a dual passive-active targeting technology for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and the development of eye, lung, and skin countermeasures for use after a chemical terrorism event. Dr. Sinko has also received numerous awards for his research, including the Rutgers University Board of Trustees’ Award for Excellence in Research in 2010was named a Fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
While at one time the Garden State was the unchallenged leader of the global pharmaceutical industry, New Jersey has recently seen its leadership role challenged as many of the state's pharmaceutical companies have reduced their R&D efforts as a result of mergers and downsizing. This has resulted in a technology-innovation shift and emergence of an alternative drug development pipeline outside of the traditional “Large Pharma” industry model, involving smaller, more agile startup companies working collaboratively with university researchers like Dr. Sinko to develop novel pharmaceuticals and novel means for delivering them. Like many other Rutgers faculty inventors, Dr. Sinko, who is also Rutgers’ Associate Vice President for Research, is highly focused on translating his research into new commercial products through a variety of mechanisms, including the founding of start-up companies. A past co-founder of two successful pharmaceutical start ups, NaviCyte, Inc. and TheraPort Biosciences, Dr. Sinko is currently involved in efforts to launch new start-up companies based on his research group’s more recent innovative technologies.
Dr. Sinko hopes that the multiplicity of activities resulting from his drug delivery and targeting efforts will greatly improve the health of patients in New Jersey and the United States, and possibly, the health of New Jersey’s economy. “Universities have a long track record providing a dynamic environment that generates important research and technologies that drive innovation and economic development,” says Sinko.