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Trudeau Institute hires director (update)

Ronald Goldfarb says, ‘The best days are ahead’

October 2, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer (cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - Trudeau Institute has a new director who says the nonprofit biomedical research center is back on the right track after two challenging years.

Ronald H. Goldfarb, a cancer researcher with 30 years of experience in the public and private sectors, has been appointed to lead the institute, Trudeau Board of Trustees President Benjamin Brewster announced in a press release Monday.

Goldfarb will be the institute's president, director and CEO. He fills a position that's been vacant for more than a year following the controversial departure of David Woodland.

Article Photos

Ronald Goldfarb
(Photo courtesy of Trudeau Institute)

"The board was unanimous in choosing Ron because we believe his talents and experience match the Institute's long, distinguished history," Brewster said in the release. "In addition to working closely with our faculty members to continue building Trudeau's reputation in immunology, Ron will focus on revenue diversification strategies to ensure Trudeau's successful transition into a new era."

The institute's history in Saranac Lake dates back to 1894, when Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau founded a laboratory here for the study of tuberculosis. He had previously started a sanitorium here in 1882 to treat TB patients. Trudeau currently has about 100 people on its payroll making it one of the community's larger private employers.

Goldfarb's appointment, effective Monday, comes after what's been a tumultuous last few years for Trudeau that included the potential relocation of the institute and, following the board's January 2011 decision to stay in Saranac Lake, the departure of key research teams and several top executives. The loss of well-funded faculty and the erosion of Trudeau's endowment have been a big financial hit for the Institute, leading to budget cuts and layoffs.

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In recent months, however, Trudeau has shown some signs that it's bouncing back. In March, the institute launched a contract research organization, making its infectious disease expertise available to biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers on a contractual basis. Its scientists have won several lucrative grants. Trudeau is also partnering with an infectious disease hospital and research center in China to see how its laboratory studies could help people afflicted with tuberculosis.

In an interview with the Enterprise Monday morning, Goldfarb said he believes Trudeau is now headed in the right direction.

"I've joined this premier institute with an exceptional faculty and staff, and a very committed and outstanding board," he said. "The issues that they had, I think, are already beginning to be reversed, as you've seen with some of the large grants that have come in recently, and with some of the approaches we're going to be taking going forward. I think the best days of Trudeau are ahead of itself.

"I had no pause at all on that issue. I understand that many organizations go through difficult times. I don't think this is a unique situation for Trudeau. I'm very glad that the decision was made for the institute to stay in Saranac Lake, where I think it's best to be located."

The release says Goldfarb has more than 30 years of experience in cancer research and development in both academic and industrial settings. Most recently, he served as president, CEO and chief scientific officer of New Jersey-based Sopherion Therapeutics, a privately held biopharmaceutical company that he co-founded in 2002.

Prior to launching Sopherion, Goldfarb held a number of senior management positions including director of the Institute for Cancer Research at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and managing cancer research and drug discovery in the Department of Immunology & Infectious Disease for Pfizer Inc.

Goldfarb said he was looking for a new opportunity because Sopherion is in the process of winding down its operations after conducting a phase-three trial for a drug called Myocet that's used to treat metastatic breast cancer. He said he hopes to sell the company to a larger company to continue the drug's clinical development.

Asked why he was attracted to the job at Trudeau, Goldfarb cited the institute's history as a premier center for immunology research. He said his background in immunology research, basic science and translational research "fits in very well with the mission of Trudeau." He also said he has a long history managing large and complex organizations in biomedical sciences.

"We're going to continue the basic research and expand as well into other areas, which have already been started at the institute, like translational research," Goldfarb said. "The importance of immunological research has never been higher than today for its potential to enhance world health and security; we will continue to emphasize investigations of the immune response for its high potential impact on discoveries of importance towards control of infectious disease, malignancies, aging and bioterrorism."

Despite the troubles Trudeau has faced of late, its current scientists and their research teams have continued to make and publish important studies in their respective fields. However, the institute so far hasn't been able to recruit any well-funded faculty to replace those that have left.

Goldfarb said his goal is to "stabilize the existing faculty and hopefully recruit people that augment their capacities.

"We have already a number of interested parties who have raised their hands that we will certainly interview, in addition to which I've also been approached by people who are quite excited by the potential," Goldfarb said. "We want to do everything right. Going forward, we're carefully rebuilding and growing the institute, and we're going to ensure that we retain and recruit the best faculty and develop the best strategic partnerships and strengthen and expand our board of trustees."

Goldfarb said he's been working in a consulting capacity with the institute's Transitional Committee for the past few months. He plans to move to Saranac lake full-time at the beginning of next year.

His hiring drew a positive reaction from a former local resident who now works for Pfizer. Susan (Groton) Cole, who said she was born and raised in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, worked a short time at Trudeau. She also knows Goldfarb.

"I've always had a soft spot for Trudeau and wondered who could possibly elevate this beautiful place back where it should be," Cole said in an email Monday. "I got my answer today! Some 30 years ago, Ron interviewed me for a position at Pfizer in the Immunology and Infectious Diseases Group. That group was initiated by Ron, and has transitioned over the years, but his thoughtful insights and mentoring will always be appreciated, especially by me."

Here are some other details of Goldfarb's background, as reported in Trudeau's press release:

-He has chaired multiple federal and state oncology peer-review panels and study sections for the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Veterans Affairs Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense and the University of California. He has also served as a member of the Veterans Affairs Merit Review Council as well as on the scientific advisory boards of five biotechnology companies, on three of which he served as chairman.

-He has held faculty appointments at the University of North Texas Health Science Center as professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as professor of pathology.

-He has published more than 135 papers; edited or co-edited five books or special-edition journal volumes in cancer, tumor immunology and cancer therapy; and has served as associate editor for two cancer journals and as a member of the editorial boards for three cancer journals.

-He is the holder of U.S. and international patents in anti-cancer drug discovery and was awarded for Outstanding Service to the Cause of Cancer Control from the American Cancer Society in 2002.

-Goldfarb earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biological sciences in 1970 from Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York (formerly Hunter College in the Bronx) and a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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