The University of Otago has appointed an internationally leading expert on vaccine formulation and delivery to its Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Sarah Hook, currently an Associate Professor in Otago's School of Pharmacy, will take up her professorial position in the School in February 2013.
Associate Professor Hook is one of the few researchers in the world who have both a deep understanding of immunology and the ability to develop novel drug and vaccine formulations.
Her particular research interest is in the formulation and delivery of small and large molecule cancer therapeutics, including a vaccine for melanoma. She also investigates skin and oral-based vaccine delivery systems which may help make needle vaccinations a thing of the past.
She is a member of the Centre for Translational Cancer Research, one of the University's 14 officially designated research centres.
Associate Professor Hook has been successful in attracting both competitive research funding and industry contracts. In the last 10 years she has been principal investigator or associate investigator on grants worth more than $7 million. She has a number of national and international collaborations including with groups in Europe, USA, Japan and Australia.
An Otago graduate, Associate Professor Hook gained a BSc (Hons) in 1989 and a PhD in Immunology in 1996. She was a Research Fellow at Wellington's Malaghan Institute of Medical Research from 1997 to 2001, when she joined the School of Pharmacy as a lecturer. The majority of the papers that she has had published since then have appeared in top pharmaceutical science journals with herself as the senior author and group leader.
Associate Professor Hook has been primary supervisor or co-supervisor for 11 PhD students who have gone on to postdoctoral positions in academia and industry.
University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is delighted that Associate Professor Hook has been appointed to the Chair.
"Not only does Sarah have an impressive teaching and research record, she also has a strong focus on working with industry to ensure her internationally leading investigations lead to real-world health benefits," Professor Hayne says.
School of Pharmacy Dean Professor Stephen Duffull says the School is excited that Associate Professor Hook is taking on the leadership role in pharmaceutical sciences, which is one of the School's three sections along with clinical pharmacy and social pharmacy.
"Sarah's expertise in biopharmaceutical sciences will herald a change in direction of the School from more traditional formulation aspects of pharmaceutical sciences to biopharmaceutical sciences. Biopharmaceutical sciences provide the link between the formulation of therapeutics and how they act at a biological level."
Associate Professor Hook says she hopes to build on the collaborative research environment within the School of Pharmacy.
"Our focus will be utilising the expertise we enjoy in the design, synthesis, formulation, delivery, pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of novel therapeutics to develop new drugs to prevent and treat infectious and non-infectious disease."
She also aims to collaborate with other New Zealand-based research groups in both academia and industry to develop cancer therapeutics which can undergo clinical trials in New Zealand.