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Pikal installed as first Pfizer Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology

by Beth Krane - October 17, 2005

Michael Pikal, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, was installed as the first Pfizer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology on Oct. 14.

The endowed distinguished chair was established through a $2 million gift from Pfizer Global Research and Development, a division of Pfizer Inc. The gift is the largest single donation the School of Pharmacy has received, and it is the only such endowment Pfizer has made to a pharmacy school in the United States.

Pharmaceutical technology experts are charged with finding ways to speed the development of new treatments, improve the quality of medicines already on the market, and lower their costs, Pikal said, but a national shortage of scientists entering the field could hinder progress in these areas.

 “Pfizer’s strategic decision to promote this field of research at the University of Connecticut is of enormous national significance, as it will allow the School of Pharmacy to meet increasing industry demands for highly-qualified workers in this area,” he said. “I look forward to leveraging this unprecedented gift from the world’s largest pharmaceutical company to recruit talented new students to this field and to continue attracting nationally recognized leaders to the school’s faculty.”

Pikal, who worked as a research scientist at Eli Lilly for 24 years before joining the UConn faculty in 1996, was chosen to fill the chair this fall after an extensive national search and year-long selection process.

An authority on freeze-drying technology, Pikal has conducted collaborative research with Pfizer scientists throughout his tenure at UConn. He is currently involved with more than $600,000 of funded research independent of the Pfizer chair, and also directs UConn’s Center for Pharmaceutical Processing Research, a cooperative effort between UConn, other major research universities, and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We view the creation of the distinguished endowed chair at UConn as a long-term commitment to enhancing the field of pharmaceutical technology, which is an essential discipline if we are to continue bringing new products to the market place for the world’s patient population,” said Tim Hagen, vice president of Pfizer Science and Technology.

“We are extremely pleased with the University’s selection of Dr. Michael Pikal. All one has to do is look at his productivity and publication record to see that he is at the top of his field nationwide.”

Hagen said the presence of the Center for Pharmaceutical Processing Research on campus played a role in Pfizer’s decision to endow the chair in pharmaceutical technology at UConn. He also cited UConn 2000.

“The state of Connecticut has made a tremendous investment in the School of Pharmacy in the form of its brand new building and state-of-the-art lab space, and in the University as a whole in terms of the number of new buildings on campus,” Hagen said. “When you see how the state’s investment is drawing increasing numbers of talented students and faculty to UConn, you know it is a very good environment, and that spurred Pfizer to invest in the School of Pharmacy and the University as well.”

In his role as Pfizer Distinguished Endowed Chair, Pikal will be responsible for developing a seminar in pharmaceutical sciences and bringing renowned researchers to campus as part of a new visiting professors program. Proceeds from the endowment also will support pre- and post-doctoral graduate fellowships.

Pikal also is currently helping to launch the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education. This non-profit consortium of universities plans to promote interdisciplinary pharmaceutical technology research and partner with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry to develop, manufacture, and deliver high-quality pharmaceuticals faster and at significantly lower cost to patients.

The investiture ceremony took place in the Oscar and Julia Roth Classroom of the new Pharmacy/Biology Building, made possible by UConn 2000.

The Pfizer chair is the third distinguished chair at UConn. The others are the Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair in Chemistry and the Ray Neag Distinguished Chair in Vascular Biology. The University has 54 endowed chairs and 12 endowed professorships.

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