The award, established by UNM President Robert Frank in 2013, honors and recognizes outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service and humanitarian endeavors by individuals within and outside the UNM community. Dr. Sklar will receive the award at the UNM Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on December 16 at WisePies Arena.
Dr. Sklar is a distinguished and Regents’ professor in the Department of Pathology at UNM’s Health Sciences Center and is the director of UNM’s Center for Molecular Discovery. He is a prolific inventor, having disclosed 61 inventions, received 36 U.S. issued patents, and has many pending patents while at the University of New Mexico in the areas of signal transduction, cell adhesion, leukocyte biology and high-throughput flow-cytometry technologies for molecular assembly and drug discovery. His technologies have generated to date 16 option and license agreements with four start-up companies and other pharma and biotechnology companies.
His interest in flow cytometry as a tool for drug discovery led to the development of high-throughput flow cytometry technologies, creating a new field called High Throughput Flow Cytometry that is being used to discover, repurpose and develop new drugs for cancer, infectious diseases, and diabetes, as well as applications in precision medicine, immuno-oncology, and antibody discovery.
For more than twenty years Dr. Sklar has dedicated himself as an inventor to making high-throughput flow cytometry the benchmark for flow cytometry technology. For nearly as long as director of the Center for Molecular Discovery, he has made New Mexico internationally known as a hub for flow cytometry research and technologies. HyperCyt-based systems are now finding their way into mainstream screening labs. In doing this, he has given a tool to researchers everywhere to discover more effective ways to understand and treat cancers, infectious diseases and many other biological applications, and built multiple teams of inventors and innovators along the way that are reflected in his patent portfolio and commercialization activity.
His high-throughput flow-cytometry technologies, called the HyperCyt® System, formed the basis of STC start-up IntelliCyt Corporation, a company Dr. Sklar co-founded to develop the technology. The sample-handling technology allows flow cytometers to screen tissue samples 30-40 times faster with greater accuracy and cost eﬃciency than standard cytometers without the HyperCyt® System. Using the proprietary autosampler and data-analysis software with standard cytometers, researchers can perform larger experiments with more samples (384 or 1536-well microplates) and more replicates; screen compound libraries against cells in suspension; and quickly visualize patterns and make decisions on microplate data as it is being analyzed.
More than 300 systems have been sold worldwide to blue chip customers such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. IntelliCyt announced a 68 percent growth in sales in 2015. In July, the company was sold to international pharma company Sartorius AG for $90 million, representing the largest acquisition to date of a local start-up company spun out of UNM technology. The company will continue to operate independently at its Albuquerque-based facility as IntelliCyt, a Sartorius company. The affiliation with Sartorius will open up new markets and provide the financial backing to help the local company of 55 employees grow to the next level.
In his letter of support for Dr. Sklar’s nomination, Dr. Richard Larson, Executive Vice Chancellor for the UNM Health Sciences Center state:
“The research performed at the Center for Molecular Discovery and under the direction of Dr. Sklar has had tremendous impact in the world of small molecule and drug discovery. In the 1990s, his research initially focused on the utilization of flow cytometry in the study of hematological cells. Through these endeavors, his interest in improving the equipment and machinery related to flow cytometry grew. He has created dozens of patents related to flow cytometry, which eventually evolved into a highly-complex, small molecule screening platform that is able to process more than 60,000 compounds per day. Many of these newly-identified molecules or repurposed drug candidates are being studied in animal and human models to determine if they may be used in the treatment of disease.”
Speaking on behalf of STC.UNM and its Board, who nominated Dr. Sklar, STC Board Chair Sandra Begay stated: “I want to praise the vision and persistence of Dr. Sklar who continues to expand the vision of drug discovery to save lives. While President Frank’s Innovate ABQ will bring technological and economic development to Albuquerque, Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative is a new national effort to accelerate the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer through greater sharing of and collaboration on ideas that work. The HyperCyt® invention, the timely acquisition of Intellicyt by Sartorious and the advanced work in drug discovery programs at UNM that Dr. Sklar has achieved are prime examples of what Innovate ABQ and the Moonshot Initiative are all about. I cannot think of a worthier candidate to receive the UNM Presidential Award of Distinction.”