MELBOURNE, FLA. — Joshua Rokach, the acclaimed chemist and longtime Florida Tech faculty member, is being inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.
Rokach is among eight inductees into the Tampa-based Hall of Fame. He was selected for his creation of the first synthesis of major treatments for asthma, nose allergies and inflammatory bowel disease, which led to the development and commercialization of the globally successful drugs Singular and Flexeril.
“I was thrilled to learn of my election to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame,” Rokach said. “This honor is definitely one of the highlights of my career.”
The 2020 inductees, who must have at least one U.S. patent and a connection to Florida, were nominated through an open nomination process and elected by a Selection Committee of distinguished leaders in research and innovation from across Florida.
Rokach has excelled in both of those nominating criteria.
A faculty member at Florida Tech from 1989 until his retirement in 2020, and currently serving as Professor Emeritus, Rokach has 119 patents in the U.S. and internationally. Among them are three patents jointly owned by Florida Tech and McGill University that in July 2018 were licensed to Fairhaven Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian-based start-up company that plans to bring the 5-OXO-ETE receptor antagonist compounds that Rokach developed at Florida Tech into human clinical trials.
Rokach joined Merck & Co. in 1966 as a senior research chemist, where he was part of a beta-blocker development program that led to the discovery of timolol, an antianginal/ antihypertensive agent used in the drug Blocadren. The same drug was also a unique cure for glaucoma, and it captured a large proportion of the world market in ocular hypertension as Timoptic.
Also at Merck, Rokach also help develop Singulair, an FDA-approved treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. The product is used by millions of allergy sufferers and has yearly sales in the billions of dollars. Rokach also developed a nomenclature for isoprostane that is now used universally.
In 1989, Rokach came to Florida Tech, where he analyzed free-radical damage in disease as it relates to Alzheimer’s and the discovery of isoprostanes and their measurement as an index of free-radical oxidative damage. He was also involved in other research efforts involving challenges such as asthma, including work on 5-Oxo-ETE, a potent eosinophil chemotactic factor that may be responsible for eosinophil accumulation in the lungs.
His work has been recognized around the world. In 1988, he was awarded the Canadian Society for Chemistry Award for his accomplishments in the fields of organic and bioorganic chemistry. That same year he was awarded the Chinese Academy of Science Award for his contributions to eicosanoid research. In 2011, Rokach was awarded the Gordon Nelson Award, given by the American Chemical Society Orlando Local Section for outstanding achievement in the chemical field. In 2018, he was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
“Joe Rokach has made an impact on countless lives in the classroom and around the world,” said Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay, who was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame along with First Lady Mary Helen McCay in 2018. “We are honored to have had his passion, expertise and relentless quest for discovery on our campus for the last three decades and applaud his induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.”
Rokach and his fellow nominees will be inducted at the 7th Annual Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Gala on September 11, 2020, at the Hilton Tampa Downtown.
“The 2020 class of Florida Inventors Hall of Fame inductees represent an extraordinary breadth and depth of inventions that have shaped modern life as we know it,” said Paul R. Sanberg, chair of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Advisory Board. “It is particularly heartening and inspiring that these immensely talented inventors not only have led distinguished, productive and heralded careers, but many of them continue to develop new inventions that advance the health, safety and welfare of people around the world.”
A complete list of the 2020 Florida Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, including biographical information, is available at www.floridainvents.org/category/2020-inductees/.
The Hall of Fame is located at the University of South Florida in Tampa and supported, in part, by the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. It was recognized by the Florida Senate in 2014 with a resolution sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes that commended the Hall of Fame “for its commitment to honoring inventors and celebrating innovation, discovery, and excellence.” For more information, please visit www.FloridaInvents.org.