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2013 Distinguished University Innovator Award

Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan received the Distinguished University Innovator Award for 2013.

The award honors faculty who have made important and lasting contributions to society by developing novel ideas and insights through their research, and then translating them to practice.

Chinnaiyan is the S.P. Hicks Endowed Professor of Pathology, professor of urology, director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He was honored for his work as a researcher, innovator and entrepreneur in the field of molecular pathology.

“Arul Chinnaiyan’s work shows how critical university research is to the development of new ways to diagnose and treat disease,” said Vice President for Research Steve Forrest. “It also highlights the key role of technology licensing and entrepreneurship in moving new ideas quickly and effectively from the laboratory to practice.”

An internationally recognized scholar, Chinnaiyan found in 2005 that a majority of prostate cancers harbor gene fusions or translocations, shedding new light on our understanding of the molecular basis of prostate cancer and laying the groundwork for new diagnostic tests and therapies. Since that landmark discovery, gene fusions also have been discovered in lung cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer and others.

Chinnaiyan’s work has led to 75 new invention disclosures resulting in 12 patents, and six license and option agreements. Products arising from these licenses already are reaching the marketplace in the form of new diagnostic tests for prostate cancer.

In addition to licensing technology, Chinnaiyan has founded three companies. Compendia Biosciences, founded in 2006, was based on a cancer genomics research database now used by a range of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. More recently, he formed Armune Bioscience Inc. to develop and commercialize new diagnostic tests for prostate, lung, and breast cancers.

And in 2012 he joined with Shaomeng Wang, Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Medicine, and professor of internal medicine, pharmacology and medicinal chemistry, to found OncoFusion Therapeutics Inc., a company that aims to develop personalized cancer therapies based on the specific driving genetic mutations in an individual’s tumor.

The Distinguished University Innovator Award was established in 2007, and its recipient is chosen by the vice president for research on the recommendation of a faculty selection committee, which reviews a pool of nominees each year. The recipient is honored in a public ceremony and delivers a lecture focusing on the innovative work that led to the award.