Biography of Dragan Primorac

Dragan Primorac biography

Professor Dragan Primorac, M.D., Ph.D., is a pediatrician, geneticist, and forensic expert witness. He became the first recipient of the title “Global Penn State University Ambassador” since the University was established in 1855. According to one of the leading World publishers, Elsevier BV, Prof. Primorac, for the last four years, has been on the list of 2% of top world scientists for career-long and single-year impact.


Currently, he serves as a professor at Eberly College of Science, The Pennsylvania State University, and the University of New Haven in the United States, and as a professor at Medical Schools in Split, Rijeka, and Osijek as well as at REGIOMED Medical School, in Germany. In October 2016. he was appointed a visiting professor at the College of Medicine and Forensics, Xi’an Jiaotong University, the People’s Republic of China, while in March of 2021., he was honored with the title “Professor Emeritus” at the National Forensic Science University of India.


He authored nearly three hundred scientific papers, abstracts, and 20 books or book chapters. Prof. Primorac has been invited to give lectures at 150 conferences all around the World. His work was published in the most cited journals, including Science and Nature. So far, his papers have been cited 8870 times (Google Scholar). He mentored 16 Ph.D. students and two students during their master’s degree process.


In the early ’90s, with colleagues from the USA, he pioneered DNA identification of skeletal human remains found in mass graves. During the same period, his group from UConn described the molecular mechanism of Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type I caused by splicing mutations located at the donor (5′) site and the molecular basis of nanomelia (a heritable chondrodystrophy of chicken) caused by aggrecan’s mRNA containing premature termination codon (PTC). In 2000., as a member of an international consortium, he published a Science paper describing a genetic perspective of human history in Europe, analyzing 22 binary markers of the nonrecombining Y chromosome, while in 2017., he authored a Nature paper describing the early and largely extinct expansion of anatomically modern humans (AMHs) out of Africa by analyzing human genomes from 148 populations worldwide.


In 2017., his research team, for the first time, showed (by using delayed contrast-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC)) the molecular impact of micro-fragmented adipose tissue containing MSCs on hyaline cartilage regeneration.   Since 2019, he has been deeply involved in whole genome sequencing studies, particularly those based on finding new potentially fatal genetic markers. In 2021, together with his US colleagues, he introduced to the Croatian Football Federation a new model of preventing sudden cardiac death: genetic analysis of 294 genes associated with inherited cardiac conditions that lead to sudden cardiac death. During the same year (2021), he was among the first scientists who successfully treated COVID-19 patients having ARDS with MSCs expanded in vitro. In 2023, he and his team successfully introduced a novel approach to rectovaginal fistula treatment with a combination of a modified Martius flap and autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue containing MSCs.


As one of the pioneers in the field, Prof. Primorac currently applies the personalized medicine paradigm (pharmacogenomics, predictive genetic testing, mesenchymal stem cell treatment, etc.) in routine clinical practice. He led many scientific projects, including the EU FP7 projects, S3 projects (EU Smart specialization platform projects), IRI 2 projects (The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation), etc.


In 1997. Prof. Primorac co-founded The International Society of Applied Biological Sciences. So far, more than 6000 scientists and 700 invited speakers (including nine Nobel laureates) from 75 countries have participated in ISABS conferences held every two years in Croatia in partnership with Mayo Clinic. He founded the “Nobel Spirit” held during the ISABS conferences when Nobel prize laureates stimulate public discussion on science’s role in solving global health issues, acute regional problems such as brain drain and demographic decline, as well as cultural and social change.


Prof. Primorac currently serves as the Executive Committee member of the International Consortium for Personalized Medicine (IC PerMEd) established by The European Commission. Besides, he is the President of The Croatian Society for Human Genetics and The Croatian Society for (Precision) Personalized Medicine. He also serves as a member of the Croatian Prime minister’s Scientific Committee.


In 2011. he founded St. Catherine Specialty Hospital, the European center of excellence in personalized medicine. St Catherine Specialty Hospital is an official hospital of the Croatian Olympic Committee and Croatian Football Federation and the teaching hospital of four medical schools. Since its foundation, Prof. Primorac has served as Chairman of the hospital’s Board of Trustees. In addition, in 2009. he co-founded the Department of Forensic Sciences at the University of Split, Croatia 2015. He was instrumental in establishing Regiomed Medical School in Bavaria, Germany.


Earlier in his career, he gained his knowledge and experience working at The University of Connecticut, Health Center, Department of Pediatrics, Farmington, Connecticut; The University Hospital St. Christopher’s, Allegheny University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), Rockville, Maryland; The Analytical Genetic Testing Center, Inc., Denver, Colorado; Roche Molecular Systems, Alameda, California, and Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory, Meriden, Connecticut, all in the United States.


Prof. Primorac received 21 domestic and international awards. Among those, in 2015. Prof. Primorac received the state decoration “The Order of Croatian Star with the Effigy of Ruđer Bošković “for his extraordinary achievements and The State Science Award (the most prestigious national recognition by the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia) for his outstanding contribution to biomedical science. In 2018, he was decorated with the state decoration “The Order of Ante Starčević” for his extraordinary achievements in science, education, politics, and contributions to the Republic of Croatia’s development. In 2019. American Academy of Forensic Sciences awarded him with “Mary E. Cowan Outstanding Service Award” for excellence, international recognition, and vast contribution to forensic science development in the World. He is currently an honorary citizen of five cities. In 2022, he was awarded the honorary doctorate of the University of Mostar, while in 2023, he was awarded the honorary doctorate of the University of Osijek.  Since November 2023, the World’s largest forensic museum (Rugao, China), including Prof. Primorac, among the most influential forensic scientists.


Many renowned media outlets, both electronic and print, have reported on the results of his work, such as The New York Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, Wall Street International, Fair Observer, JAMA, Lancet, Science, NBC, Channel 8 (Connecticut TV Station), Večer (Slovenia), Kleine Zeitung (Austria), Haaretz (Israel), Die Presse (Austria) and almost all local and regional press. In 2022., American writer Ari Mittleman dedicated the entire chapter in his book “Path of the Righteous: Stories of Heroism, Humanity, and Hope.” to Professor Primorac’s work. In 2023., the Chinese-American author Xiaping Jiang, in her book “Gunshot in Croatia,” features Professor Primorac’s forensic work during forensic identification of war victims in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 90s.


From 2003 to 2009, he served as Minister of Science, Education, and Sports of The Republic of Croatia. According to the International Republican Institute survey of October 1, 2007, he was rated the most successful minister in the Croatian Government with a 31% approval rate.  The award for numerous efforts made by Prof. Primorac and his team on the Croatian educational system was the survey of Newsweek (August 16, 2010), which rated the Croatian education system 22nd in the World, ahead of 12 countries from the G20 group.


Primorac was a cadet taekwondo (WTF) vicechampion of former Yugoslavia. On November 17, 1987, he founded the first WTF taekwondo club in Southern Croatia, and since then, he has been president of the club. In 2004, he was awarded the Silver Plaque by the European Olympic Committee for his contribution to sports development. In 2015. he was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame in the United States. President of the European Taekwondo Federation Mr. Sakis Pragalos, in 2019. awarded him the honorary 7th Day black belt and, in 2020, the WTE Gold Medal. In October 2020, he was elected a member of the Council of the Croatian Olympic Committee. From 2019 to 2021, he was the President of the Medical Committee of the Croatian Football Federation (CFF), while in 2024. he was appointed the President of the Medical Committee of the Croatian Volleyball Federation (CVF). Now, he is acting as the Senior Advisor to the President of CFF. On November 27, he was elected a European Olympic Committee Medical and Anti-Doping Commission member. In 2022. he was elected Vice President of the Croatian Taekwondo Federation.


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