May 28, 2010

Fesik to hold new Ingram Chair in Cancer Research

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Orrin Ingram II, right, has endowed a chair in Cancer Research to be held by Stephen Fesik, Ph.D. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

Fesik to hold new Ingram Chair in Cancer Research

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Chemistry, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Orrin H. Ingram II Chair in Cancer Research.

The newly created chair is funded through a gift from Ingram, chairman of the Board of Overseers of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and chair of its Medical Center Affairs Committee.

The chair was created to support the research efforts of an outstanding cancer investigator in the VICC cancer drug discovery program.

“I am honored to receive this newly endowed chair which supports our efforts in cancer drug discovery,” said Fesik. “I came to Vanderbilt because it has assembled an amazing team of investigators with expertise in cancer biology, personalized medicine, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry. Support like this from Orrin will make it possible to develop the next generation of high-impact life-saving cancer drugs that few other centers are in a position to create.”

Fesik is working to discover cancer drugs using structure-based drug design and other methods he pioneered while at Abbott Laboratories, where he built a pipeline of drug candidates showing promising anticancer activity in early stage clinical trials.

Recruited in 2009 to lead cancer drug discovery at Vanderbilt, Fesik has authored 235 publications, holds 10 patents, serves as a member of several editorial boards, scientific advisory boards and boards of directors, has won numerous awards for his scientific achievements and is a global expert in structural biology and cancer drug discovery.

“Stephen Fesik is a wonderful addition to the outstanding research team that has been assembled at the Cancer Center,” said Ingram. “I am happy to provide support for this crucial work to discover exciting new drugs and to match the right drugs to individual cancer patients. This is the kind of work that can make a difference to patients like my father, whose cancer could not be treated successfully.”

Ingram’s father, E. Bronson Ingram, died from cancer in 1995.

Ingram, who received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1982, is president and chief executive officer of Ingram Industries Inc. He also serves as a member of the boards of Ingram Micro Inc., the Krystal Co., FirstBank and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.

Ingram is an active volunteer with a number of local and national organizations, including the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Alignment Nashville, Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, Nashville Alliance for Public Education, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the Wetlands America Trust Board for Ducks Unlimited.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a world class institution. Without Orrin, that simply would not have happened,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “His generous commitment in endowing this chair represents yet another step in his journey in the fight against cancer and giving life to so many where before there was no hope.”

“Orrin Ingram's philanthropic and leadership support for the work of the Cancer Center has been remarkable,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of Vanderbilt-Ingram. “This newly endowed chair illustrates our continuing commitment to discovering new treatment options for cancer patients.”

Fesik and his colleagues on Vanderbilt's new drug discovery team already have received federal research grants in support of their innovative approach to cancer drug discovery, according to Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“Vanderbilt provides a model for translational medicine, from basic scientists to the clinicians who see patients,” Balser said. “Cancer drug discovery is a crucial direction for our research efforts and we are thrilled with Orrin Ingram's generous support for the important work of leading scientists like Stephen Fesik.”