PhD (BiSc), 1985
SFU OUTSTANDING ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENT, 1997
Imre Kovesdi left his native Hungary at age 21 and arrived in Vancouver on a rainy day (it continued to rain for 2 more months). Although he was an electrician, he could not find a job, so he applied himself to learning English. After that, he enrolled in Vancouver Community College and transferred, a year later to UBC where he eventually received a degree in electrical engineering.
After working for a few years Imre realized that his calling was in biology so he started taking night classes. He eventually enrolled in SFU's PhD program in molecular biology. Imre studied the starfish which allowed him the exciting opportunity to learn to scuba dive.
After completing his PhD, he was fortunate enough to be accepted as a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University in New York. While studying adenovirus transcription, he discovered the transcription factor E2F regulating cell cycle and adenovirus replication. Publications of this discovery helped Imre to get a job as a scientist at the pharmaceutical company, American Cyanamid, which is today a part of Pfizer.
At American Cyanamid, Imre headed the Gene Expression group for 6 years and worked on new drugs to combat HIV infection. In 1993, he was approached by Genentech and venture capitalists to start a new gene therapy company, GenVec, in Maryland.
As the Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research at GenVec, he designed and created a large number of vectors which were used in clinical trials including product candidates that are now in Phase II and Phase III of clinical development.
They say, variety is the spice of life, so he tried to apply his know-how to business. Imre became CEO of VectorLogics, a biotech company in Alabama. However, after a merger with DNAtrix of Houston he decided that science suited him better than business.
Presently Imre is the CSO of this company. Through the years he has authored over 130 scientific articles and he is the holder of over 100 US and foreign patents. Imre still lives in Maryland as nowadays it is easy to work from a distance. He finds that arts and sports are a great diversion from work. He has a black belt in judo, loves to ski with his grandchildren, and travel and hike with his wife.
-Written by the Faculty of Science
Published in April 2016