By Michael Haederle

Ingenuity Rewarded

Larry Sklar, PhD, Named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Larry Sklar PhD, an emeritus professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Pathology whose innovations in high throughput flow cytometry have spurred new drug treatments and research breakthroughs, has been named a 2020 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Sklar is among 175 academic inventors being recognized this year for their work in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions. Election as an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. Fellows hold more than 42,700 issued U.S. patents, which have generated more than 13,000 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 36 million jobs.

Larry Sklar, PhD“This comes as I begin the journey into the next phase of my life,” says Sklar, who moved to working quarter time when he retired and took emeritus status at the end of October.

“It’s particularly meaningful, because it begs the question of having tried to think about innovation as a team sport within the context of my full-time job. What is the most meaningful way for me to think about me when my day job is only quarter-time? It really leads me to ask the question how can I use this approach in the most meaningful way going forward.”

The practice of science as a “team sport” has motivated him for most of his professional career, Sklar says.

“In order to build an ecosystem you need to put something into the ecosystem,” he says. “I was real interested in making contributions to the ecosystem by having a portfolio and bringing a lot of colleagues along with me – dozens and dozens of collaborators on those innovations. I wanted to make innovation a team sport, rather than making it an individual enterprise.”

The high throughput flow cytometry device developed by Sklar and his colleagues enables lab scientists to rapidly scan large numbers of cells to assess a variety of characteristics. It is a valuable tool in drug repurposing and new therapies. “People are applying it in discovery of drugs, personalized medicine and immuno-oncology,” Sklar says.

The drive to commercialize the device spawned the formation of Intellicyt, an Albuquerque-based biotech firm employing more than 300 people that was sold to a German firm for $90 million in 2016.

Sklar also collaborated with UNM colleagues to develop small molecule therapies for cancer and other diseases, which have in turn led to additional biotech startups. In all, he has played a key role in 44 U.S. issued patents for technologies that have been licensed to 10 new startup companies.

Over the course of more than 30 years at UNM, Sklar was honored as both a UNM Regents Professor and Distinguished Professor of Pathology. In addition, he held the Maralyn S. Budke and Robert E. Anderson Endowed Chair in Cancer Drug Discovery, served as director of the Center for Molecular Discovery and was a Distinguished Scientist and co-director of the Cancer Therapeutics Research Program in the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Sklar led Innovation and Discovery at the UNM Clinical & Translational Sciences Center and played a leadership role in the Autophagy, Inflammation and Metabolism Center. He also mentored students and faculty in UNM’s Faculty Entrepreneurs Network, and training programs at the I-Corps Center and the New Mexico Rainforest University Entrepreneurial Training Center.

In retirement he doesn’t expect to be spending much time in the lab.

“Much of what I will be doing is in a senior advisory capacity in ongoing projects where people want me to be involved,” he says. “I will continue to have engagement with centers. I am in conversation with companies in the region to think about what can be meaningful with a team spirit.”

The new class of National Academy of Inventors Fellows will be inducted at the 2021 induction ceremony at the Academy’s 10th annual meeting next June in Tampa, Fla.

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Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center, Education, Research, School of Medicine, Top Stories