Vice President of Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing
Igor Nikoulin, Ph.D.
Igor Nikoulin, Ph.D. is an incredibly accomplished scientist in the areas of pre-formulation, formulation development and clinical manufacturing. He is credited as the discovering scientist on 13 patents, including one awarded to IRISYS recently for a new generation liposomal doxorubicin, a groundbreaking pH targeted formulation of an established chemotherapeutic agent. Igor has worked in the field for 41 years, 11 of which here with us at IRISYS, and he has produced over thirty publications across his career. It would be reasonable to assume that it would be an intimidating experience to speak with someone so accomplished, but his personality is warm, and conversing with him is both entertaining and interesting. He is incredibly humble and values the pursuit of knowledge, family, and his teammates. He would prefer to talk about the IRISYS team and his admiration for the people he works with than his own work, and he would rather discuss spending time with his son than his own numerous accomplishments both inside and out of the lab.
Igor became inspired to pursue a career in science when he was in high school. Like many young people, he did not know what to study until he spent one week in a mass spectrometry lab with a family friend at the Institute of Biophysics and Proton Research in a Scientific City in Russia. He went on to earn his MS and Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Lomonosov Moscow State University and, before coming to the United States, worked in several academic institutes. He came to the United States to do his postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Diego. Subsequently, he held an additional post-doctoral position at the Scripps Institute, focusing on lipids and lipoprotein metabolism. He chose to come to San Diego because he thought that it was paradise. He jokingly adds that paradise disappeared as soon as his post-doctoral work began. However, those long hours have led to important discoveries. Though the idea of pH targeted chemotherapeutic agents is not a new one, it has been difficult for other facilities to make it a reality. Igor and fellow IRISYS scientist, Yevgeniya Plekhov, (Senior Scientists and Group Leader), have succeeded where others did not. Igor shared that “Difficulties are nothing, they’re always present, and we constantly overcome obstacles. When you start something, you have to finish it.” The breakthrough in formulation has the potential to lead to a treatment that is more targeted and less toxic than other chemotherapeutic formulations currently available.
Igor’s extensive experience has not dulled his excitement for work or science “I’m still learning and IRISYS is a very good school.”. He admires the President of IRISYS, Robert Giannini, Ph.D., and CEO, Gerald Yakatan, Ph.D., as sources of knowledge and wisdom. “When speaking with the team, I feel as if I am always polishing different ways of thinking. Like a master in a chess game, you must play with someone who is much stronger than you are so that you can grow. That’s part of what makes my days exciting and what makes them feel like they fly by.” IRISYS also has a lot of exciting projects currently. There is potential for some great accomplishments and the company continues to grow. In addition to the current capabilities, IRISYS’ expansion will allow participation and pursuit of phase 3 trials and commercial manufacturing projects that require aseptic processing and lyophilization.
Outside of the lab Igor enjoys reading and feels that everyone should find the time to read. “There are so many articles and so much information.” His passion for knowledge is only superseded by his love for his son. He enjoys practicing martial arts, karate, jiu jitsu, and judo with his son who is 9 years old. “That’s the greatest hobby I could ever have.” Before he took up martial arts, Igor played ice hockey when he was younger. It is only with a great amount of questioning and digging that he admits that he was tried on a couple of well recognized Soviet Union’s Junior Hockey Teams when he was younger. Although he did not feel the need to highlight this experience, it is an incredible accomplishment, equivalent to being on the Junior Olympic Team here in the United States. He truly lives his life following the advice that he gives to young scientists: “Ownership, dedication and passion. You want to complete your projects in such a way that you can be proud of yourself while still being humble.”
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