Thomas Kopchick and His Family Donate $23 Million to IUP
The Kopchicks’ gift of $23 Million marks the largest single contribution ever given to IUP in its 115 year history and will support science and math initiatives, according to IUP officials.
In 1987, he joined Ohio University in Athens as director of growth section at Edison Biotechnology Institute (EBI). Somavert, his breakthrough drug to treat acromegaly, generated record royalties that have generated staggering wealth for both the institution and its inventor.
Early Life and Education
Kopchick obtained his B.S. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Subsequently, he moved on to Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute where he discovered and characterized molecular aspects of growth hormone receptor antagonists which eventually lead to Somavert (Pegvisomant for Injection).
Kopchick and his team immediately recognized they had discovered something significant – a large-molecule growth inhibitor with potential applications in treating diabetes, cancer and acromegaly, an inherited disorder which leads to excessive bone and organ growth that, left untreated, may lead to premature death.
At first, it took 12 years and cost $1.2 billion to gain approval for Somavert. During that time, Dean wrote out Kopchick’s phone number on a Post-it(r), then concealed it under his dirty shorts.
Kopchick discovered a compound that formed the basis for Somavert (Pegvisomant), a medication designed to treat acromegaly, which causes excessive secretion of growth hormone. His discovery has brought relief and royalties that support research at Ohio University.
Professor of molecular biology and Milton and Lawrence H. Goll Eminent Scholar at Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, he has published over 400 scientific papers with an h-index rating of 80 and advised over 35 Ph.D. candidates, 14 Master’s students, and 45 postdoctoral fellows.
View Mike Kopchick’s profile on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. They currently hold one job listed under their profile in Stratford, CT, United States.
Achievement and Honors
Kopchick was recently honored to receive multiple distinctions, such as being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, she won an AMVETS Silver Helmet Award in 2008, was recognized with the British Society for Endocrinology’s 2011 Transatlantic Medal, and earned an Ohioio Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology title in 2012.
Rick Hawkins ’75 spent November 2 at Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute (EBI), learning more about Kopchick’s lab work. This is the same lab where decades earlier a scientific breakthrough made headlines and put OHIO on the map as an authority in growth, diabetes, cancer and aging research – eventually turning this breakthrough into pegvisomant or Somavert that’s used to treat acromegaly.
Personal interests included cross-country skiing, golfing and membership of a bowling and volleyball league. He enjoyed traveling extensively to different countries, states and national parks while contributing to many non-profit organizations seeking funds from him.
He was a long-term resident of Punxsutawney and an active volunteer for various local organizations including the Clayton Duck Decoy Show, Lion’s Club bingo, History at Noon talks and Groundhog Day festivities and parades. Additionally he became more actively involved with EBI lab, making a key discovery that resulted in Somavert (Pegvisomant injection) drug being developed and being named 2012 OHIO Distinguished Professor as well as Milton and Lawrence Goll Eminent Scholar.
Kopchick’s discovery led to the invention of Somavert, which has become a worldwide treatment for acromegaly (an incurable chronic condition marked by excessive secretion of growth hormone). Royalties from its sales have provided over $120 million back to Ohio University while supporting a translational medicine doctoral program.
Hawkins quickly recognized the potential of Kopchick’s discovery and applied his entrepreneurial mindset. Leveraging his expertise from Pharmaco, drug development, and investor attraction, he established Sensus Drug Development Corp. which funded research into Kopchick’s discovery while building up staff dedicated to Somavert development. Furthermore, he negotiated an agreement with Genentech (one of only a few capable of manufacturing large proteins), so Somavert could be manufactured for clinical trials by them.