April 10, 2009

UNM Cancer Center Researcher Larry Sklar, Ph.D., Receives Prestigious New Mexico Technology Excellence Achievement Award


The New Mexico Technology Council (NMTC) has selected University of New Mexico Cancer Center researcher Larry Sklar, Ph.D., as a recipient of a 2009 Technology Excellence Achievement Award. The award is in recognition of the innovative research efforts of the team led by Sklar in molecular discovery technology, which could lead to potential new cancer drugs and identify new ways to target cancer cells.

The NMTC is the state’s largest advocacy group for technology-related business, comprised of individuals and companies/organizations working together to promote the growth and success of New Mexico’s technology sector. The NMTC selected Sklar from a group of top community leaders and innovators.

Sklar, who is a Regents Professor at the UNM School of Medicine and an internationally recognized researcher, directs the UNM Center for Molecular Discovery, one of only nine such centers in the U.S. selected for funding by the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, the NIH awarded Sklar’s team with a six-year, $15.5 million award that follows an earlier $9 million NIH award in 2005. The aim of both funds is to discover new cancer drugs at the molecular level, which could lead to new ways to understand, diagnose and treat cancers. The UNM Center for Molecular Discovery will look for new interactions of small molecules and proteins that affect how cancer develops and grows.

For the past four years, Sklar has led a team of more than 40 scientists, who often worked double shifts, to develop innovative solutions to provide high-quality, high-impact results for the benefit of the biomedical community around the world. “We have a great team that we’ve been building for years,” Sklar said. His team regularly collaborates with scientists and engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to design tools to screen for potential cancer drugs and find new ways to target cancer cells. With colleague Bruce Edwards, Ph.D., Sklar developed a new apparatus and process that perform cell analyses nearly 30 times faster than what was possible previously. This new technology is expected to significantly speed drug discovery, while lowering the costs of drug development and clinical diagnoses.

The work of Sklar’s team has resulted in several patents, more than forty peer-reviewed publications and new innovative approaches for treating cancer, high blood pressure and depression. He was nominated for the NM TechEx Award by Tudor Oprea, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Biocomputing at UNM, who wrote, “During this entire period, Larry Sklar has worked with selfless dedication for the good of the team, the university and for the good of New Mexico. His efforts have not only resulted in international recognition of the Center since 2005, but has enabled the University of New Mexico to maintain the same level of excellence which keeps it in the same league as Scripps, Burnham, Broad Institute, Vanderbilt, Southern Research Institute and NIH itself.”

“This award is a great honor, and I’d like to thank the New Mexico Technology Council for their recognition. This is truly a team effort and we’re continually collaborating with fine minds from around the country, which really drives innovation,” Sklar said. “It’s very exciting to partner with experts from different disciplines who are all working together to put an end to cancer.”

The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of the State of New Mexico, and one of only 63 National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers in the nation. It is home to 85 board-certified oncology physicians representing every cancer specialty and more than 120 research scientists hailing from such prestigious institutions as M.D.
Anderson, Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. Last year, the UNM Cancer Center served more than 7,600 new patients in 84,000 patient visits.

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