President's Innovator Award

Established in 2015, The Society for Glycobiology President’s Innovator Award acknowledges the contributions of one scientist each year for an outstanding scientific innovation in the field of Glycoscience that has made a significant impact on society. 

2023 Award Winner - Dr. Paul DeAngelis

The Society for Glycobiology President’s Innovator Award acknowledges the contributions of one scientist each year who has made a significant impact on society. The 2023 President’s Innovator Award will be presented to Dr. Paul L. DeAngelis, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Dr. DeAngelis first became interested in glycobiology during his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, where he received his B.A. in 1984. This was followed by a Ph.D. from the University of California Irvine in 1990 and postdoctoral studies under Dr. Paul Weigel at the University of Texas, Galveston. Dr. DeAngelis was recruited as an Assistant Professor in 1994 to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he rose through the ranks to his current position as Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (appointed in 2006). Throughout his career, Dr. DeAngelis has had an enduring commitment to the glycoscience field, particularly in the area of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) biology.

Dr. DeAngelis’ research centers on characterization, biological function, and synthesis of a variety of GAG polymers. His work has yielded 94 research publications, 14 review articles or book chapters, 48 issued US patents, and >99 foreign patents. Dr. DeAngelis has developed elegant technologies for synthesizing novel GAG polysaccharides that have subsequently been used in various medical devices, biomaterials and therapeutics. As one notable achievement, Dr. DeAngelis pioneered methods for the chemoenzymatic synthesis of heparosan (HEP, a heparin precursor), which enabled the production of HEP with a defined polymer size distribution and installation of sites for drug coupling. This advancement led, in turn, to the generation of the “HEPtune” drug delivery platform. The HEPtuneTM technology has been utilized to conjugate HEP to biologics such as insulin and growth factors to extend half-life, and to produce HEP-coated liposomes for improved drug delivery. Additionally, Dr. DeAngelis developed methods useful for synthesizing the anticoagulant, heparin, in a highly controlled manner. Synthetic heparin offers a clinical alternative to biological sources of heparin, which have inherent structural variability, and can pose health hazards due to potential contaminants. His other syntheses employed artificial sugar analogs to create novel GAGs with new functionalities. Complementing his work on HEP and heparin, Dr. DeAngelis has had a long-standing interest in the biology and biosynthesis of Hyaluronic Acid (HA). The DeAngelis lab identified and cloned several HA synthases and provided seminal insights into the structure/function relationships of these enzymes. This foundational work on HA synthases was leveraged to develop technologies that have been employed in the production of defined HA-based biomaterials, drugs, and other reagents.

In recognition of his many outstanding accomplishments, Dr. DeAngelis has received numerous awards. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2013 and received the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OkBIO) Innovation Award in 2014. He also received the Rooster Award for scientific achievement for synthetic HA from the International Society for Hyaluronan Sciences in 2007. The indelible impact of Dr. DeAngelis’ work is further illustrated by the licensing of his innovative technologies to multiple pharma and biotech companies, including four biotech companies founded by Dr. DeAngelis, and for which he has served as Chief Scientist and Director. The HEPtuneTM technology was developed as part of Caisson Biotech, L.L.C. and licensed to Novo Nordisk A/S. Likewise, other technology for producing recombinant HA was developed under the auspices of Hyalose, L.L.C., and licensed to Novozymes A/S (one of the largest global enzyme producers). The two other companies founded by Dr. DeAngelis are Heparinex, L.L.C., which produces recombinant heparinoid-based drugs and biomaterials, and Choncept, L.L.C., which focused on recombinant chondroitin-based materials. These entrepreneurial achievements, coupled with Dr. DeAngelis’ landmark research on basic GAG biology have positioned Dr. DeAngelis as the ideal recipient of the 2023 President’s Innovator Award.