March 12, 2004

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Contact: Dan Lara, University Relations, (785) 864-8855.

KU professor receives Marconi Science Award from Italian-American group

LAWRENCE -- A University of Kansas professor will receive a national science award tomorrow from the nation's largest Italian-American service organization.

Valentino J. Stella, distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at KU, will receive the 2004 UNICO National Marconi Science Award at a ceremony March 13 in Phoenix. UNICO, based in Fairfield, N.J., was founded in 1922 to support the charitable, educational, scientific and literary projects of individuals of Italian heritage.

"I'm very honored to receive this award," Stella said. "I'm very proud of my Italian heritage."

Born in Australia to parents of Italian descent, Stella moved to the United States in 1968 and became a U.S. citizen in 1994. He earned his bachelor's degree from the Victorian College of Pharmacy in Melbourne, Australia. He received his doctorate from KU while mentoring under Takeru Higuchi, distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry.

Stella was on the faculty of the University of Illinois Medical Center from 1971 to 1973, when Higuchi convinced Stella to return to Lawrence. Since returning, Stella has had a remarkable career at KU.

Stella invented or co-invented two drugs: Cerebyx for the treatment of epilepsy and Viread for the treatment of AIDS. He also developed a new solubilizing agent, Captisol, used to dissolve intractable drugs for injectable use.

In his spare time, Stella's inventions helped found three companies: CyDex, Crititech and ProQuest Pharmaceuticals, all based in the Lawrence-Kansas City area.

"I love to teach and mentor young people," Stella said. "I'm really a problem solver, and Professor Higuchi taught me to be an inventor and entrepreneur."

UNICO's Marconi Science Award is presented to a full-time resident and citizen of the United States of Italian descent who is involved in the physical sciences, such as electronics, physics and chemistry. The award is named after Guglielmo Marconi, who is credited with discovering long-wave, short-wave and microwave transmissions that preceded the development of radio and television.

The award was established in 1995 to recognize a living scientist who exemplifies Marconi's vast scientific and creative accomplishments through his or her own life achievements.

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