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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kohn named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Harold Kohn

Harold Kohn

Professor emeritus Harold “Hal” Kohn of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

The NAI Fellows Selection Committee chooses candidates who have demonstrated “a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

One of Kohn’s most significant achievements is the development of a treatment for certain epilepsy patients that received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2008. Lacosamide, a first-in-class antiepileptic drug with the brand name Vimpat, is prescribed in the United States and 49 additional countries for treatment of partial-onset seizures.

Kohn’s work has focused on two areas. The first is describing the mechanism of action of clinically approved and emerging drug candidates and in the broad disciplines of drug discovery and target identification and validation. The second is the synthesis and evaluation of new therapeutic agents. His work examines of the biological mechanism of therapeutic agents, such as lacosamide, mitomycin C and bicyclomycin, at the molecular level and the design, synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of new therapeutic agents for the treatment of neurological disorders, cancer and bacterial infections.

In 2010, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy recognized Kohn for his contributions to contemporary teaching and scholarship in biotechnology with the prestigious Paul R. Dawson Biotechnology Award.

Kohn came to Carolina in 1999 as a Kenan Distinguished Professor and chair of the pharmacy school’s division of medicinal chemistry and natural products (now chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. He served as chair until 2005 and restructured the division to meet the challenges facing academic medicinal chemistry programs. External funding for the division tripled and publications increased under his chairmanship. He founded NeuroGate Therapeutics in Raleigh in 2011.

Throughout his distinguished career, Kohn made notable contributions to biotechnology and the academic community. His research has led to 180 peer-reviewed papers published in leading journals, as well as 10 patents in the United States and more than 25 abroad. These investigations have provided the framework for the training of 30 doctoral, seven master’s and 30 postdoctoral students.

Kohn received a bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1966 and a doctorate in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1971. He conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia University from 1971 to 1973 before joining the faculty at the University of Houston in 1973. Kohn served as founding director of the pharmacy school’s Bill and Karen Campbell Faculty Mentoring Program. He retired from the pharmacy school in 2015 and was named professor emeritus.