Colorado State University Names Former Abbott Vp to Head University’s New Cancer and Infectious Disease Enterprises

Colorado State University and Colorado State Ventures today announced pharmaceutical leader Dr. Terry Opgenorth as the chief operating officer for NeoTREX and MicroRx, the enterprise arms of the university’s first two Superclusters.

Opgenorth joins the university after 20 years with Abbott Laboratories’ Global Pharmaceutical Research and Development organization where he most recently served as divisional vice president of drug discovery overseeing antiviral, metabolic disease and target-lead discovery research.

MicroRx is the enterprise arm of the university’s first Supercluster, focused on infectious disease, which was announced in February. The university’s second Supercluster, Cancer Research and Treatment, and its enterprise arm NeoTREX, were announced today. The Cancer Supercluster will leverage existing cancer research from five colleges and create a highly-collaborative structure to develop effective treatments and products to fight cancer and quickly moving these advances to the marketplace.

"The Superclusters concept we’ve created at Colorado State provides a groundbreaking vehicle for moving university research to the global marketplace," said Colorado State University President Larry Edward Penley. "Terry Opgenorth brings an extraordinary combination of business acumen and scientific expertise that will help ensure the success of this landmark endeavor."

Opgenorth is a graduate of Denver Christian High School, and he received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and master’s and doctoral degrees in physiology from University of Illinois-Urbana. Following postdoctoral research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., he joined Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles as an assistant professor of Medicine in a newly formed hypertension research group. He also was an adjunct assistant professor of Medicine at UCLA.

Opgenorth was recruited by Abbot Laboratories in 1987 to join their cardiovascular drug discovery efforts as a senior scientist. While at Abbott, he pioneered a program that ultimately led to the discovery of atrasentan, a drug investigated in human clinical trials as a treatment of advanced stage prostate cancer. The Abbott research team led by Opgenorth is widely regarded as leaders in the field, pioneering the discovery compounds with unique pharmacologic properties that have been used by investigators throughout the world.

Later in his career at Abbott, he initiated a drug discovery program to identify potential new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, and later headed up the antiviral drug discovery and target-lead discovery groups. Opgenorth was the driving force behind Abbott’s collaborations with various biotechnology companies including Metabolex in California, Karo Bio in Sweden, and Millennium and Enanta both in Massachusetts.

During his career at Abbott, his accomplishments were recognized by induction into Abbott’s Volwiler Society as a research fellow. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Research Team Award in 2000. He also received a number of Chairman and President Awards for accomplishments as a scientist and leader in Abbott’s Global Pharmaceutical Research and Development organization.

Opgenorth has authored 130 peer-review publications, three patents and nine invited reviews or book chapters. He currently serves on Scientific Advisory Boards for Euroscreen SA in Brussels, Belgium, and Keystone Symposia in Silverthorne, Colo.

Colorado State Superclusters focus on research areas where the university has demonstrated international prominence, and where a potential for growth is evident. Penley began creating the unique organizational structure in 2004 to allow faculty from multiple disciplines to work together to address the great global challenges. Each supercluster combines an academic component and a business component, which allows the public to reap the benefits from the university’s research and greatly accelerate research to market.

Many research universities have "technology transfer" programs, which guide scientists through the process of patenting and other complexities encountered in delivering discoveries to the global market. Colorado State’s Superclusters model is unique in its multidisciplinary structure, enabling groundbreaking research to move to market more quickly by emulating successful business practices.

Opgenorth’s appointment as the first chief operating officer will be followed with other COO appointments as additional Superclusters and enterprise arms are formed. For each Supercluster, a chief operating officer will focus on forging business alliances and developing new opportunities for the results of that research. The Supercluster’s technology transfer specialist will seek opportunities for patents, licenses and startups. The team also will seek private equity investors for new business opportunities.

The Cancer Supercluster in particular is a collaboration of the university’s Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Natural Sciences, Applied Human Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Engineering. It builds on more than three decades of excellence in cancer research, currently funded at the university by numerous organizations including NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, Morris Animal Foundation and Department of Energy.

MicroRx, a first-of-its-kind enterprise to speed the transition of life-saving research on infectious diseases from the academic world into the global marketplace, was the first of the university’s Superclusters. The Supercluster model was announced in February at the time of MircoRx’s formation. The university has global renown for its infectious disease discoveries, including diagnostic tests and vaccines for West Nile virus, leprosy, bubonic plague and tuberculosis. The Colorado State Foothills Research Campus is home to the world’s most advanced research techniques, facilities, equipment and some of the world’s leading researchers in the field of infectious disease.

MicroRx, NeoTREX and all future Superclusters will be governed by a new not-for-profit entity called Colorado State University Ventures. This business enterprise is a subsidiary corporation of the existing Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF, a private, non-profit foundation that aids the university in overall research and educational efforts.

Colorado State, a premier research institution, has experienced double-digit growth in research dollars in recent years with total annual research expenditures topping $267 million.

Based on a competitive proposal process, Colorado State will select additional Superclusters in research areas including environmental sciences, alternative energy and agriculture. Colorado State will select additional Superclusters based on a competitive proposal process, in research areas including cancer, environmental sciences, alternative energy and agriculture.

Future choices, similar to the current NeoTREX and MicroRx Superclusters, will be guided by the university’s strengths, global challenges and interest in increasing economic prosperity and quality of life.