Marty Sinacore, 59; favored collaboration in science, music

Dr. Sinacore directed research and development projects in the mammalian and microbial cell sciences.
Dr. Sinacore directed research and development projects in the mammalian and microbial cell sciences.

A scientist and researcher, Marty Sinacore worked with colleagues to develop cell cultures that would lead to new and better biotechnology products for a variety of uses.

“His work was really a foundation for the entire industry,” said his colleague Thomas Ryll, a senior director at Biogen Idec, where Dr. Sinacore worked. The two met about 15 years ago at a conference, and “I admired all the work he had done in the 1990s,” Ryll recalled.

They kept in touch and Ryll hired Dr. Sinacore in 2008 to head a Cambridge-based team for Biogen Idec that included about 20 people. Dr. Sinacore later took on another team in North Carolina and was known for nurturing colleagues.


“What he really wanted to do was go and educate and build the next generation of scientists,” Ryll said. “He was a great scientist, but was also someone who cared about mentoring.”

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Dr. Sinacore, who also was a guitarist and bicyclist, died Nov. 13 in Lawrence General Hospital of complications stemming from a bike accident in October, his family said. He was 59 and had lived in Andover.

“He really cared about his people,” said Kasra Kasraian, who worked with Dr. Sinacore in the 1990s at Genetics Institute in Cambridge.

“He really was looked up to as a father figure around here,” said Rashmi Kshirsagar, who worked at Biogen Idec with Dr. Sinacore. She said he went out of his way to get to know junior staff members, those young people fresh out of school.

“He was really truly interested in your well-being,” she said. “He was always willing to give you time to talk.”


Known internationally in his field, Dr. Sinacore held patents and his work was published in journals, but he also had a full life outside of science.

“He was a private, but a very social guy,” said one of his closest friends, Bill Putnam, who played in bands with Dr. Sinacore. The two friends also attended North Parish, a Unitarian Universalist church in North Andover.

Dr. Sinacore’s wife, Sue, said that when he was a child, an uncle gave him a guitar. Formal training was too expensive, so Dr. Sinacore learned the basics of playing by watching an educational television program each Saturday morning in the den of his family’s home.

“He was very self-disciplined,” she said.

Dr. Sinacore kept playing through the years, but usually avoided audiences until he began performing with friends at North Parish, which his wife had attended for many years. She said he helped lead Sunday bake sales and chaired a strategic planning committee.


Through friends at church, he started playing in the bands Oncoming Traffic and White Street Band, which performed at charity concerts and other venues.

Dr. Sinacore wasn’t completely comfortable in public at first. When he first got on stage, “he was almost visually shaking and perspiring,” said Putnam, who performed with him for more than a decade.

In White Street Band, they played classic rock and blues, and Dr. Sinacore “was the best lead guitarist,” Putnam said. “You pull Marty out of the band, you’re left with rhythm and a few runs. … He was just a really stable force behind the band.”

On the band’s website, Dr. Sinacore’s biography said he was “a biotech scientist by day and rocker by night. Marty’s inner 14-year-old garage band mentality is still alive and well.”

Dr. Sinacore was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and when he was a child, his parents and extended family, including several aunts and uncles, moved to Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island.

Awarded a Regents Scholarship, he attended State University of New York at Fredonia, where he met Sue Fleming when both were sophomores. She went to his apartment, where he held a big spaghetti dinner Sundays for “everyone who wanted to come,” she said.

“I thought, ‘Holy cow, here’s a guy who embraces community and family,’ ” she recalled.

They started dating during their senior year and married in 1976, about a year after they graduated.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology, Dr. Sinacore attended the University of Connecticut, graduating with a doctorate in biochemistry in 1981.

In 1984, Karyon Technology in Norwood hired him as a scientist and research and development supervisor. The family moved to Attleboro, where they lived for several years before relocating to Andover.

Dr. Sinacore spent much of his career working for Andover-based Wyeth BioPharma, which acquired Genetics Institute in the early 1990s.

He started as a principal scientist directing research and development projects in the mammalian and microbial cell sciences and pilot lab. Later, he was associate director for cell and molecular sciences, and during his last year became the associate director of drug substance development.

In 2007, Dr. Sinacore founded a leadership forum to bring together scientists to share some of their findings.

“He thought science is not going to advance if scientists among companies don’t talk to each other,” his wife said.

Dr. Sinacore also was involved with other organizations in his field, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the European Society for Animal Cell Technology.

Since 2008, Dr. Sinacore worked for Biogen Idec in Cambridge. His wife said that working there gave him the ability to do what he wanted to do most: mentor young scientists.

“Marty really made a positive impression in the world,” Putnam said. “I saw his contribution at the church. I saw his contribution to his friends, his family. He was just somebody you felt you were privileged to know.”

In addition to his wife, Dr. Sinacore leaves a daughter, Ann, and a son, James, both of Portland, Ore., and a brother, Steven, of Sayville, N.Y.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in North Parish Church in North Andover.

Throughout his life Dr. Sinacore enjoyed biking.

He participated in charity rides, including an AIDS benefit from New York to Boston.

Although he had traveled all over the world for work and conferences, his favorite destination was Nantucket because of the bike trails and the sea, his wife said.

“He liked feeling the freedom of the air and the road,” his wife said.

Alli Knothe can be reached at