In 2000, Dr. Sean Sullivan joined Let There Be Hope, the nonprofit foundation dedicated to research in targeting communicating cells of the immune system, as Research Director after having worked with
Michael Scolaro, M.D. and Robert Gieseler, Ph.D. on methods for inhibiting HIV-1 proliferation in infected cells. His research expertise is in the field of targeted drug delivery for viral infections and cancer. After obtaining his B.S. in Chemistry from Maryville College in Tennessee, Dr. Sullivan earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology’s Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 198587. After many years in the biotechnology industry, Dr. Sullivan accepted a position as Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
Dr. Sullivan conducted research on the “Development of Anti-HIV Therapeutics” with an NIH/NIAID grant, 198790, in conjunction with the City Of Hope in Duarte, CA, and MicroProbe, Inc., in Bothell, Washington. From 1989-90 he conducted research on the “Development of Antibody Targeted Chemotherapeutic Immunoliposomes” with an NIH SBIR grant. With Drs. T. Cech and Chip Schooley of the University of Colorado at Boulder, he utilized NIHNIAID funding to examine “Anti-HIV Ribozyme Development” in 199396. Another NIH SBIR grant supported study of “Targeted NonViral Gene Delivery” in 1997.
During his twenty years in the biotechnology industry, Dr. Sullivan developed liposome and polymer-based systems for the delivery of antiviral and anticancer drugs targeted specifically to diseased tissue. While at Vestar, Inc. (later a division of Gilead Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), he formulated a chemical modification of a liposome surface that yielded specific delivery of liposome encapsulated antisense DNA to lymphocytes and monocytes resulting in inhibition of HIV proliferation. In collaboration with Drs. Michael Scolaro and Robert Gieseler, from the nonprofit foundation, Let There Be Hope, along with Gieseler’s colleagues at the University of Gottingen, Dr. Sullivan published “Inhibition of HIV-1 Proliferation by Liposome Encapsulated Sense DNA to the 5’ tat Splice Acceptor Site (Antisense Research and Development 1992; 2:187-197).
Dr. Sullivan left Vestar to pursue the development of ribozyme technology. Ribozymes are synthetic or naturally transcribed enzyme RNA molecules that can bind to RNAs encoding proteins and cleave them enzymatically. While at Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc., he developed a topical polymer formulation for treatment of herpes simplex virus type 1 of the eye. At Somatix Therapy Corporation (currently CellGenesys, Inc.) and GeneMedicine (currently Valentis), Dr. Sullivan developed targeted nonviral gene delivery systems to address tumor vasculature.
His subsequent research at the University of Florida focused on developing plasmid based gene delivery systems to treat late stage brain cancer. He applied a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics to developing targeted gene delivery to brain tumors. After 7 years at UF, he left to join Vical, a late stage clinical development biotech company, devoted to developing plasmid DNA based immunotherapies to treat cancer and vaccines prevent infection disease. He is currently in charge of scale-up manufacture and process development.
He has published extensively, has generated numerous patents, has given seminars throughout the U.S. and Europe, and is on the editorial boards for Pharmaceutical Research and Human Gene Therapy. In addition, Dr. Sullivan is a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health.