MUSC Hollings Cancer Center

New SmartState Endowed Chair Patrick Woster, PhD, to Develop Cancer Drugs in SC

Top Scientist Will Help Lead State’s Cancer Drug Discovery Center of Economic Excellence

One of the nation’s leading cancer drug researchers has moved his work to South Carolina thanks to the state’s SmartState Program (previously known as the CoEE Program).

Dr. Patrick Woster will be based at the S.C. College of Pharmacy (SCCP), where he will help lead the Center of Economic Excellence in Cancer Drug Discovery and become the SmartState Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry. Woster is one of four endowed chairs supported by the Cancer Drug Discovery Center, a Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center in which the University of South Carolina is a partner.

“We are excited to have a medicinal chemist of Dr. Woster’s caliber join our drug discovery team,” says Rick Schnellmann, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at SCCP.

In South Carolina, Woster will work to develop drugs that turn specific genes on or off in tumor cells, a process known as epigenetic modulation, that can make anti-tumor medications more effective. In addition, he and his team will work to discover new treatments for diseases such as malaria and other parasitic illnesses. 

“We have a goal of developing a world-class drug discovery program at MUSC by providing a core facility for drug synthesis and compound development, and by teaming up with existing centers within the university, such as Hollings Cancer Center,” says Woster. To date, Woster holds eight patents based on compounds he has synthesized.

“The discovery of successful, improved agents for the treatment of cancer would have a significant impact on the lives of patients in South Carolina and beyond,” Woster explains. “We hope to increase the scope of our research efforts to include many aspects of the drug development process that will ultimately lead to early and late human clinical trials.”

Woster’s work could have a notable impact on quality of life in South Carolina by leading to improvements in both the physical well-being of cancer patients and in the economic health of the state through the creation of new companies and new job opportunities.

“Creating new intellectual property is an important aspect of our work, and we hope to exploit the commercial potential of our agents through association with or creation of new companies within the state of South Carolina,” he says. Woster also notes that the compounds developed through his work could be “of significant interest to large pharmaceutical firms, especially in the current environment where alliances between industry and academia have become much more common.”

Woster’s interest in cancer drug research began during a clinical rotation in a hospital oncology unit while in pharmacy school.

“I witnessed the fear and confusion that patients experienced following a diagnosis of cancer, and the frustration of the medical staff, who at that time had a very limited arsenal of drugs for chemotherapy,” says Woster. “Most of these drugs had very serious side effects, and in many cases only prolonged the life of the patient for a short time. These observations were major motivating factors in my decision to train as a researcher.”

Woster says he was drawn to South Carolina because of the reputation of MUSC as an emerging power in biomedical research, the outstanding reputation of SCCP, and the state’s SmartState Program, which provides an opportunity for Woster to advance his research to the next level of excellence and promote economic development in South Carolina.

“We are thrilled to recruit a recognized leader in cancer research as an Endowed Chair,” says SmartState Review Board Chair Pamela P. Lackey. “Dr. Woster’s work has great potential to touch many lives in this state and to advance the biosciences industry in South Carolina.”


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