Robert Young

New chair to stimulate drug discoveries

November 14, 2007

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A new B.C. leadership chair will support pharmaceutical research and drug development at SFU.       

Robert Young, who joined SFU’s faculty of science this past May from pharmaceutical company Merck Frosst Canada, is the new Merck Frosst BC Leadership Chair in Pharmaceutical Genomics in Drug Discovery.

Previously vice-president of medicinal chemistry at Merck Frosst Canada, Young brings almost 30 years of pharmaceutical industry experience to SFU. Among his achievements is the discovery and development of Singulair®, a breakthrough drug for the treatment of asthma and seasonal allergic rhinitis. Now sold in 75 countries with sales of over $3 billion U.S. per year, the Merck Frosst Canada website cites Singulair as the company’s number-one research accomplishment.

Young’s SFU research will be directed at developing new drugs to target specific diseases. His research will initially focus on osteoporosis and bone degenerative diseases. Osteoporosis impairs quality of life for 40-50 percent of elderly females and 10-15 percent of elderly males in Canada and escalates health-care costs.

Currently, osteoporosis drugs stop bone loss but do not in any significant way re-grow bone. Young is working on drugs that will stimulate rapid bone growth.

Young, who holds many honours, was named a Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society for his contributions to medicinal chemistry and was also awarded the UK and Canadian Prix Gallien for his work on Singulair. He is also a member of the Order of Canada, an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an elected fellow for the Chemical Institute of Canada.

Funding for the chair came from the B.C. government’s Leading Edge Endowment Fund ($2.25 million) and industry supporters such as Merck Frosst Canada ($1 million).

"This funding is yet another cornerstone of SFU’s emerging role in health-related research," says Young. "SFU has already been pivotal in developing the biotechnology leaders of B.C. With this chair and strong partnerships in the community, we hope to explore new options to treat the diseases that afflict mankind."

The funding has attracted additional support from private partners including $250,000 in infrastructure support from Genome British Columbia.

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