UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise has appointed Joseph M. DeSimone as its new director.
DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of chemistry at UNC and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering at N.C. State University.
He replaces John D. Kasarda, who stepped down in June after serving as the director of the institute for 22 years.
DeSimone “is a world-renowned scholar in his field,” said Kenan-Flagler Business School Dean James W. Dean Jr. “As an innovative entrepreneur, he is applying his research to design novel nanomedicines for cancer therapy and to improve vaccines and drug-delivery mechanisms. He is the perfect leader to continue the institute’s cutting-edge research and collaboration with business and communities to create positive local and global change.”
The Kenan Institute, part of the business school, pursues cutting-edge research, educational programs and public policy initiatives in the areas of entrepreneurship, economic development and global competitiveness.
DeSimone’s research focuses on applying lithographic fabrication technologies from the computer industry for the design and synthesis of new medicines and vaccines. He has almost 300 publications, is an inventor on more than 130 patents and has more than 100 patents pending. In 2004, DeSimone and his students invented a new technology to create nanoparticles using a process they coined as PRINT (Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates).
With PRINT, DeSimone and his team were the first to adapt manufacturing techniques from the computer industry to make advances in medicine, including improved approaches to cancer treatment and diagnosis. Other projects include developing nanoparticle vaccines for infectious diseases, vaccines for cancer and particles that mimic red blood cells.
DeSimone co-founded Liquidia Technologies, a Triangle-based nanotechnology company, to further develop the PRINT technology. Liquidia has its first product — a nanoparticle flu vaccine — in clinical trials.
In June, Liquidia announced the initiation of a multiyear collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, potentially worth several hundred million dollars. The efforts of the two companies as a result of this agreement could lead to the development of multiple lifesaving health care products.
DeSimone is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; an adjunct member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and director of the Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology and the Institute for Nanomedicine at UNC. He has been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, the highest honors a U.S. scientist or engineer can receive.
DeSimone received a bachelor of science in chemistry degree from Ursinus College in 1986 and a doctorate in chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1990.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Hawkins Kenan ’35 created the Kenan Institute in 1985 to promote collaboration among business, government and academia and to promote the growth of private enterprise worldwide and the use of private-sector resources to serve the public interest. Nearly three decades later, the impact of the institute’s research and initiatives is visible in thriving communities and companies from rural North Carolina to the Greater Mekong sub-region of Asia.
“I am forever grateful for the unbelievably strong support that I and the University continue to receive from the Kenan family,” DeSimone said. “We are uniquely positioned to leverage the intellectual capital we have right here on campus, join it with some of the best and brightest minds from around the globe, and develop innovative market-based solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges of our time, including poverty, health, education, energy, sustainable development and economic growth. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help drive the institute forward at this critical juncture.”