Pharmacy Alum Makes His Mark in Biotechnologies

Shankar Musunuri '93 Ph.D., chief executive officer of Nuron Biotech.

Shankar Musunuri '93 Ph.D., chief executive officer of Nuron Biotech.

The world is moving quickly for Shankar Musunuri ’93 Ph.D., whose two-year-old specialty biologics and vaccines company, Nuron Biotech Inc., has already developed a promising treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Nuron Biotech, which Musunuri started with fellow alum David Zeng ’97 Ph.D. in Exton, Pa., started important global Phase 3 clinical trials on a new drug, NU100, for the treatment of MS.

On a separate front, Nuron Biotech is also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to relaunch the successful HibTITER pediatric flu vaccine, formerly owned by Wyeth/Pfizer Inc., in the U.S. and other markets.

“We know the medical milestones achieved with the HibTITER, and recognize both the medical need and the relevance of this vaccine in the U.S. and markets around the world,” says Musunuri, who serves as Nuron’s chief executive officer.

Musunuri was recognized by the UConn Pharmacy Alumni Association as its 2011 Distinguished Alumnus in Industry last year.

Nuron is concentrating on new vaccine opportunities, as well as sublicensing vaccines that have a tremendous upside in saving lives, easing human suffering, and preventing disease.

Musunuri says he knew pharmaceutical biotechnology was an exciting new field when he joined UConn’s doctoral program in 1987, but even he is surprised at how rapidly the industry has grown in recent years.

Nuron Biotech’s rapid growth was recognized in September 2011, when it received the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Life Sciences award for best new early-stage company in biotechnology and the medical field. The company has expanded to 32 employees from its start in April 2010 with Musunuri and Zeng, senior vice president of development and manufacturing operations.

Musunuri credits his UConn experience with helping build his confidence and critical thinking skills along with his success.

“UConn provided me with very broad thinking power through the strong coursework taught by a very renowned and dedicated faculty,” says Musunuri. “It also allowed me to work with very talented graduate students, and we all learned from each other.”

Musunuri fondly remembers the weekly lab discussions he had with his fellow grad students and how they challenged one another’s work. That sense of teamwork, dedication, and problem-solving was instrumental in achieving success in the commercial market, he says.

He began his career at Amylin Pharmaceuticals, before holding various leadership positions of increasing responsibility at Pfizer and Wyeth. He also has contributed to several patents during his career.

“UConn provided me with an excellent education, and that gave me the courage to be successful,” Musunuri says. “I was very confident and successful at Amylin, and I never looked back.”