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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 21 2010

Pfizer scientist signs on at NDSU

A former high-ranking Pfizer biotechnologist will bring immediate recognition to a new North Dakota State University Center of Excellence.

C. Satishchandran will direct NDSU’s Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production, which will focus on identifying and producing DNA vaccines.

Satishchandran is the former chief technology officer of the Nucleic Acid-Based Therapeutics Division of the Biotherapeutics Division at Pfizer Inc.

“This is just huge for us,” said Charles Peterson, NDSU dean of pharmacy, nursing and allied sciences. “It immediately brings international and national expertise and distinction to our program in North Dakota.”

Satishchandran’s annual salary is $225,000, making him the second-highest-paid employee at NDSU, behind only the president, according to NDSU payroll information for 2009-10.

Peterson said it took some negotiation and effort to attract someone of Satishchandran’s stature.

Satishchandran is known around the world for his expertise in DNA vaccines and will bring with him connections and opportunities to work with pharmaceutical companies, Peterson said.

Higher education and economic development officials have been working to bring a cluster of vaccine and related biotechnology firms to Fargo-Moorhead to build on academic programs already here.

Satishchandran, who moves to Fargo from Cambridge, Mass., was traveling Thursday but stated in a news release his goal is to develop at least one vaccine during the center’s first five years, followed by at least one vaccine each year after that.

The vaccine marketplace was a $22 billion industry in 2008 and is expected to be a $36 billion industry by 2013, Peterson said.

“If we can get just a piece of that coming to North Dakota, you’re talking about tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” Peterson said.

The center also will address public health issues that affect people locally, such as West Nile virus, and globally, such as malaria, Peterson said.

Satishchandran also will be a tenured professor of pharmaceutical sciences at NDSU and have teaching responsibilities.

His first task will be to develop a business plan and identify the key areas the center wants to address, who the partners will be and to find funding sources, Peterson said.

For the time being, the center will operate out of Sudro Hall, which houses the College of Pharmacy.

Satishchandran said in the news release his role is to recruit talent, develop investments and facilitate research.

“The center of excellence will provide the environment for inventors and biotechnologists from around the world to work and discover,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590