Northern Illinois University alumnus and medicinal chemist Michael L. Vazquez will discuss his latest work with Janus Kinase 1, a tyrosine kinase protein, during a noon presentation as part of the Center for Biochemical and Biophysical Studies seminar series on Friday, Oct. 21, in LaTourette Hall, room 201.
Vazquez, a 1980 chemistry graduate and a 2016 alumni recipient of a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences award, has worked diligently to make safe and efficacious medicines over his career of nearly 30 years. He has mentored scientists and provided valuable leadership within Searle and Pharmacia, which were acquired by Fortune 100 Company Pfizer, where he currently serves as an associate research fellow.
After receiving his Ph.D. from Northwestern and completing a postdoctoral appointment at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, he began his pharmaceutical career as a medicinal chemist with Searle. After the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was discovered as the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), he began to design and synthesize molecules that inhibited the growth of HIV – which led to the invention of the sulfonamide class of HIV-protease inhibitors. A large number of patents resulted from Vazquez’s work and portions of his work became the commercial anti-HIV products Agenerase, Lexiva and Prezista. At Searle, he also helped design chemistry labs and recruit scientists to work in the emerging technology of combinatorial chemistry and in support of this effort, co-developed a cheminformatics program.
While working in research at Pharmacia, he led a medicinal chemistry team, in partnership with a team at Sugen, a small biotech firm acquired by Pharmacia, developing novel CMET inhibitors which ultimately led to the development of Xalkori, commonly used in treating lung cancer. After Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer, Vazquez served as director of medicinal chemistry and led a team of chemists in the development of molecules relating to the treatment of hypertension. It was at Pfizer that he began work with representatives across the globe on a MedChem Design Team to advance excellence in practice and facilitate ongoing education across four Pfizer research sites. He recently led the project team and medicinal chemistry efforts on Janus Kinase 1, which resulted in the identification of a clinical candidate which is currently in phase 2 clinical studies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
The seminar series is presented by the Center for Biochemical and Biophysical Studies, which promotes and coordinates biochemical and biophysical research and graduate training within the NIU. The Center is composed of faculty associates and their students, whose primary appointments are in the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences.
To learn more about the seminar series, go to niu.edu/biology/campus-experiences/cbbs/cbbs-seminar.