SAN DIEGO — There was a distinctive foreign flavor to some of the more than 100 people who attended the Oklahoma BioScience Association's reception Wednesday night at the BIO 2008 International Convention.
There were business men and women from India, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia and, well, Texas among those celebrating the BIO show with their Oklahoma hosts.
Many of the foreign contingent were drawn to the Oklahoma biotech reception by the presence of University of Oklahoma Health Science researcher Paul DeAngelis, who has done ground-breaking work in the area of carbohydrates, or "sugars,” as he calls them.
In fact, developments in the OU lab of DeAngelis have resulted in three commercial spin-off companies — Hyalose, Choncept and Heparinex — and earned the OU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology something of a celebrity status in biotech world.
Recipient of top honors
DeAngelis, 46, was honored last year with the Rooster Award, the highest honor bestowed by the International Society of Hyaluronan Sciences for his development of synthetic hyaluronan. The compound was once harvested from the combs of roosters and is used for myriad medical and cosmetic purposes.
"On the world stage, Paul is a serious talent,” said Richard Furneaux, team manager for carbohydrate chemistry with Industrial Research Ltd. in New Zealand.
"When he goes to conferences, Paul is someone that people are real interested to hear what he is doing,” Furneaux said. "His stuff is very novel. In my judgment, it has a lot of potential. It is genuinely novel; no one else does it.”
Industrial Research is one of the world's largest manufacturers of carbohydrate products and is negotiating to serve as a manufacturer for the compounds developed by DeAngelis.
Industrial Research had four New Zealanders at the Oklahoma reception. They were joined in the crowd surrounding DeAngelis by Narender Dev Mantena, senior vice president for Strategic Business Development with Biological E. Limited of India, and Hans De Klingenbirg, representing Denmark-based Novozymes.
Synthesis developments lead to partnerships
Biological E. signed a deal with Heparinex earlier this year to produce synthetic heparin in a process developed by DeAngelis, while Novozymes has been a long-time partner to produce large quantities of hyaluronic acid in a process that also came out of DeAngelis OU lab.