Dr. Regnier on Innovations In Health
Sometimes the solutions to problems exist before the problem is recognized.” So began a wide-ranging interview with Dr. Fred Regnier, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and newly retired this May after 45 years of teaching at Purdue University in Lafayette. This November he and his wife are moving into the Barrington of Carmel. Fred’s specialty is chromatography, a process which separates and/or purifies molecules for diagnostic and treatment purposes. His discoveries have led to the better treatment and prevention of diabetes and heart attacks. How? Let’s start at the beginning.
Fred grew up on a cattle farm in Nebraska, where he learned the value of hard work and an appreciation for books from his parents. He met his wife Linda in a chemistry lab at Nebraska State College. “We were lab mates; she would make beautiful, pure crystals and I would do the write-up.” Both graduated in May of 1960 and were married in August that same year. He went on to a Ph. D. at Oklahoma State University and post-doctoral stays at University of Chicago and Harvard University, while Linda finished her M.S. in Housing and Interior Design. They arrived at Purdue in July of 1968 and welcomed their daughter Stephanie in 1970. What followed was a career in biochemistry and business. “The broad field in which I have worked my whole life is called ‘analytical biochemistry.’ The companies I co-founded resulted from this work.” Though Fred retired from teaching this year, his hand is still very much in the game with two out of five of those companies. “Perfinity Bioscience focuses on developing and selling very rapid sampling tools. Through the use of our products, sample preparation times can be collapsed from 12 – 24 hours to a few minutes. They provide vital information for a hundred or more biomarkers, resulting in medications like insulin or those that digest blood clots to aid recovery after heart attacks. Decisions can be made quickly and often with as little as a single drop of blood.” “Novilytic, on the other hand, makes test kits that are used for single, small molecules. One of our tests is for Vitamin D. Another kit that we’re working on will help identify concussions. With a pinprick of blood onto a small card, football players provide a baseline read before a game. Should they experience head trauma during play, a second pinprick can be compared to the first to quickly determine the trauma’s severity. We’re also excited about a new product that allows home sampling. Through a finger stick an individual or physician can collect a drop of blood and then mail it to a lab for analysis. All our kits are developed to be cost effective and easy to use.”
How did Fred come to integrate his teaching and academic research with such successful companies? “It started with a summer sabbatical at Corning Glass Works in Massachusetts in 1974. Corning had decided to do biological science by immobilizing enzymes on glass. I liked the idea so went to work on lab diagnostic kits for hospitals. That experience taught me how to think about science as it relates to business.” Linda added that her husband does this naturally. “We’ll be driving down the street and Fred will see someone mowing the lawn. He’ll wonder, ‘How can we make that process easier? And what could we do with the clippings?’ A simple trip morphs into mental aerobics. This kind of outlook can be very stimulating and sometimes exhausting.” Fred has received world-wide recognition as a result of his diligent research, most recently with the American Chemical Society Award in Separation Science and Technology.
He takes even greater pride, however, in the success of his students, 80 of whom have received a Ph.D. degree of their own. “When you’re around 20-50 students, all of whom are thinking and talking a mile a minute, you get exposed to so many more ideas than you would by yourself. It is enormously enriching.” During the next phase in their lives, Fred and Linda look forward to new friends and surroundings at The Barrington. According to Fred, “My objective for many years has been to make a difference by filling a need in society. I have learned that can be done through teaching or bringing products to the market place that are new and useful. Novilytic and Perfinity are vehicles that allow me to continue doing that, although in a different way than when I was at Purdue.”