> New Merck Frosst BC Leadership Chair in Pharmaceutical Genomics

New Merck Frosst BC Leadership Chair in Pharmaceutical Genomics

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Erica Branda, marketing director, SFU Advancement, 778.782.3353

November 8, 2007
The following provides some background to the B.C. government’s funding announcement today.

Dr. Robert Young holds the new Merck Frosst BC Leadership Chair in Pharmaceutical Genomics in Drug Discovery at Simon Fraser University.

Chair details:

The chair was established with an initial provincial commitment of $2.25 million from the Leading Edge Endowment Fund and private industry support of $1 million from Merck Frosst Canada, among others.

This funding has attracted additional support from private partners including $250,000 in infrastructure support from Genome B.C.

"Merck Frosst is pleased to work in partnership with Simon Fraser University and a top scientist like Dr. Robert Young who has made such a positive impact in patients' lives with the discovery of Singulair," says Michael Luther, vice-president of basic research at Merck Frosst. (See below for description of Singulair)

"Advances in healthcare require resources, teamwork and partnerships across the country, and Merck Frosst is very proud to support basic research in Canadian research institutions that share these common goals."

As the catalyst for life sciences research in the province, Genome BC has invested over $300 million in 32 genomics projects and platforms since 2000.

“We are delighted to support Dr. Young’s Chair thereby naming him a Genome BC Fellow,” says president and CEO Alan Winter. “This is the first of several significant contributions that will be made under our Research Leadership Awards Program.”

“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.”

How will it make a difference?

Young's research aims to find new targets for drug discovery and will initially focus on developing drugs that stimulate rapid bone growth for patients with osteoporosis and bone degenerative diseases.

Osteoporosis impairs the quality of life for almost half of elderly females and up to 15 per cent of elderly males in Canada, placing a heavy toll on the health care system. Existing  osteoporosis drugs stop bone loss but do not re-grow bone.

As co-director, Drug Design and Synthesis, for the Centre for Drug Research and Development, Young will also play an important role in helping B.C.’s burgeoning health research community to translate additional industrial and academic research discoveries into diagnostics and pharmaceuticals.

Who is Dr. Robert Young?

Previously vice-president of Medicinal Chemistry at Merck Frosst Canada, Young brings almost 30 years of pharmaceutical industry research 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 US per year, the Merck Frosst Canada website cites Singulair as the company’s number one research accomplishment. 
Young holds many honours. He was awarded the UK and Canadian Prix Galien and was named a Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society for his contributions to medicinal chemistry.

He is a member of the Order of Canada, an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an elected fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and an appointed member of Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.