David Perlin, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and executive vice president of the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) has been honored with BioNJ’s 2023 Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership.
Perlin has served as the founding chief scientific officer of the CDI since its inception in 2019 to address unmet medical needs in infectious diseases, cancers, behavioral health, autoimmune, and neurocognitive disorders, as well as other acute and chronic health problems.
“Dr. Perlin is an exceptional leader whose expertise and dedication elevates and advances our health network mission to transform health care and serve as a leader of positive change,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “He is anticipating the incredible changes coming in the healthcare landscape – and finding ways to keep ahead of the curve.”
“David is a colleague who is making a difference in all the best ways,” said Sol Barer, Ph.D., current Chairman of the Board of Teva Pharmaceuticals, founder of Celgene, and a biotech innovator and leader who is the namesake of the award. “His is a mind which strives constantly for excellence, and he is relentless in his pursuits.”
“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Perlin with the 2023 Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership for his tireless work on behalf of patients, medical innovation and New Jersey’s ever-growing life sciences ecosystem,” said BioNJ President and CEO Debbie Hart. “Driven and passionate, Dr. Perlin is changing the lives of patients around the world … tackling the unimaginable. He is New Jersey’s own innovation superhero.”
The CDI has been committed since its inception to make innovative science actionable for patients in real time to deliver on solutions for unmet medical needs. Over three plus years, the CDI has enjoyed exponential success, evolving to include 26 primary investigators, more than 170 employees, and, along with obtaining 57 NIH grants, it has garnered more than $165 million in research commitments.
Perlin was recently promoted to executive vice president of the Hackensack Meridian Health network. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDI, under his leadership, worked ahead of the virus’s arrival in February 2020 and developed a test that allowed the team to triage patients during the critical first wave of the pandemic. Perlin then oversaw successful science in testing convalescent plasma treatments, and surveillance of the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus over the last two years.
Most recently, Perlin leads a team including colleagues from Rockefeller University, Columbia University, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Rutgers, Merck and Aligos to discover and create new antiviral drugs to battle SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus threats of the future. The consortium, called the Metropolitan AntiViral Drug Accelerator (MAVDA), is funded by a $65 million grant with an option to extend to $108 million over five years. It is one of nine national antiviral drug accelerators as part of the NIH Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) program created under the Antiviral Program for Pandemics (APP), which was established to speed development of therapeutics for COVID-19.
Perlin also leads an NIH-designated national Center of Excellence in Translational Research (CETR) to develop novel antibiotics against high-threat drug resistant bacterial infections. This $33 million program has four advanced compounds at the preclinical development stage.
“The work of David Perlin makes the lives of patients better,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, the president of Academics, Research, and Innovation at Hackensack Meridian Health, and also the founding chair of the Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute. “His work during COVID-91 in particular shows just how his vision of accelerating science from bench to bedside is critical to 21st-century success.”
The Dr. Sol J. Barer Award was established by the BioNJ Board of Trustees in March 2008 to recognize outstanding research and business leaders who have made and continue to make significant contributions to the life sciences industry in New Jersey and globally. The nominee is voted on by the BioNJ board of trustees based on nominations.
Past recipients have included: Barer as well as Lisa Drakeman, former president and CEO, Genmab; John Johnson, former president and CEO, Dendreon; John Crowley, chairman and CEO, Amicus Therapeutics; Paul Thomas, founder and former CEO, Roka Bioscience; Francois Nader, former president and CEO, NPS Pharmaceuticals; Stuart Peltz, CEO, PTC Therapeutics; Abe Abuchowski, former CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, Prolong Pharmaceuticals; Clive Meanwell, former CEO, The Medicines Company; Fred Hassan, managing director, Warburg Pincus; Andrew Pecora, former chief innovations officer, Hackensack Meridian Health; Bill Hait, global head, Johnson & Johnson External Innovation; Kenneth Frazier, executive chairman and former CEO, Merck & Co.; and Judith M. Persichilli, commissioner, New Jersey State Department of Health.
Perlin was presented with the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award by Barer himself, on the evening of Feb. 2, during BioNJ’s Annual Dinner Meeting and Innovation Celebration at the East Brunswick Hilton.