NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NCATS Mourns Shinn, Longtime Drug Discovery Team Leader

Paul Shinn
Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn, a foundational member of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and its Division of Preclinical Innovation (DPI), died on Nov. 17, following a traffic accident. He was 46.

As DPI’s compound management group leader, Shinn worked with his team to oversee large libraries of investigational and approved drug compounds. The group provides samples of drug compounds to NCATS researchers, other NIH institutes and centers and more than 300 collaborators on six continents. 

Shinn was an expert in process automation and a true practitioner in the principles of continuous improvement. He created workflows and processes to automate a wide variety of tasks and reduce dependency on manual operations, or to enable tasks that would not be feasible if done manually. These range from the development of a fully Web-based sample management ordering service that nearly every NCATS intramural scientist uses, to systems that automate operation of sample storage and retrieval systems. 

Shinn and his team also developed software and processes that improved chemogenomic screening. He pioneered methods to automate the screening of drug combinations, including development of novel software used throughout the biomedical community. Many of the studies enabled by his methods yielded the primary data that led to multiple, successful clinical trials that have changed the treatment of several cancers.

“Paul’s contributions to NCATS are immeasurable,” said NCATS Director Dr. Joni Rutter. “As a colleague, collaborator, mentor and friend, he always was approachable, supportive, giving of his time to others and a joy to be with. His sudden loss leaves a hole within NCATS that will be impossible to fill.” 

Born in Burma, Shinn immigrated with his family to the United States when he was 3. He earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, and conducted postgraduate genomics research in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Ecker at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. 

Before joining NCATS, Shinn worked at the NIH Chemical Genomics Center within the National Human Genome Research Institute. He was an author on more than 80 research papers on drug discovery and genomics.

“Paul was the definition of a translational scientist,” said Sam Michael, chief of NCATS’s Information Technology Resources Branch and Shinn’s friend and supervisor for more than 16 years.  “He was a man of many diverse talents whose work crossed multiple disciplines and who had a passion for helping anyone who asked at any time. He was an amazing scientist and an even better person, and his memory will forever be honored and cherished.”

Shinn is survived by wife Angelee Mullins and two daughters.

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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