Science & Technology

Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design director to give annual Chu Lecture at UGA

Athens, Ga. – This year’s Chu Lecture hosted by the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy will explore “Acyclonucleosides to Ziagen: A Journey.” Presented by Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota, it will be held March 6 at 11 a.m. in Room 201 of the Pharmacy South building. A reception will begin at 10 a.m., and the public is invited to attend.

For 35 years, Vince has taught medicinal chemistry to undergraduate pharmacy students, medicinal chemistry graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Minnesota as a professor in the department of medicinal chemistry.

His most notable achievement is the design of carbocyclic nucleosides termed “carbovirs,” agents that were later developed into the anti-HIV drug Ziagen that is marketed worldwide by GlaxoSmithKline for the treatment of AIDS in adults and children. Carbovirs were the first series of agents that showed significant activity against the human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis B virus.

The starting chemical for the production of Ziagen and other carbocyclic nucleosides was developed by Vince’s laboratory in the late 1970s. This material, referred to as “Vince’s Lactam,” is now produced in metric ton quantities by several chemical companies.

In 1987, the National Cancer Institute Decision Network Committee for Preclinical Development selected the carbovirs, the first of the anti-HIV compounds specifically designed for inhibiting the AIDS virus, for accelerated preclinical development. The University of Minnesota licensed the carbovir drugs to Glaxo Pharmaceutical Co. in 1988, and the drug made it to market in 1998. This discovery has led to 16 U.S. patents and several foreign patents.

Sales of the drug continue to rise, and royalties to the University of Minnesota have exceeded $600 million. In 2002, the royalty income enabled the creation of a Center for Drug Design within the Academic Health Center that has gained international reputation for excellence in medicinal chemistry research.

Vince received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1962 and a doctorate in medicinal chemistry in 1966, both from the College of Pharmacy at SUNY Buffalo.

Sponsored by the UGA department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, the Chu Lectureship was established to bring internationally recognized leaders in drug discovery to Athens and to honor the accomplishments and contributions of David Chu, a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus in the College of Pharmacy.

As a medicinal chemist, Chu has been involved in drug discovery of anti-cancer and anti-viral agents for more than 30 years. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed research articles in major scientific journals, edited four books and has more than 50 U.S. patents. During his academic career, he discovered several clinical candidates for cancer and viral diseases.

Chu has trained more than 120 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and has maintained an active research program in drug design and synthesis, even after his retirement in 2008. His research program in drug discovery has been recognized as one of the top academic laboratories both nationally and internationally.

For more information on the UGA department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, see For more information on Vince, see