Chemists honor 'Heroes' for biotechnology achievements in health

08/16/04

Thirteen research chemists from four companies have been named Heroes of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, for improving health and well-being by creating new drugs, vaccines, nutritional supplements and other biotechnology products based on chemistry or biochemistry.

Multidisciplinary teams from 3M, QLT Inc., Schering-Plough Corp. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals have been recognized by the ACS for developing innovative therapies for eye disease, skin cancer, leukemia, genital warts, high cholesterol and other ailments. Heroes are nominated by their companies and the winners are chosen by an ACS panel to recognize industrial work that has lead to the successful development and commercial sale of a technological product.

The Heroes of Chemistry program, started in 1996 by the ACS, honors industrial chemists and chemical engineers who create commercially successful products that improve the quality of life. Last year's program honored 17 scientists from four companies for developing products based on chemistry that improved children's health and wellness.

This year's teams will be honored as Heroes of Chemistry at the American Chemical Society's 228th national meeting in Philadelphia on Aug. 22.

"The chemical advances made by our Heroes serve as testimonials to the valuable role chemists, chemical engineers and allied scientists play in improving lives," says Charles P. Casey, Ph.D., president of the American Chemical Society. "It is with pride that the ACS recognizes these Heroes of Chemistry."

The keynote speaker for the Heroes program is James Watson, Ph.D., president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who, with Francis Crick, Ph.D., and Maurice Wilkins, Ph.D., was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering that the structure of DNA is in the shape of a double helix.

The companies and their achievements are:

3M, St. Paul, Minn., developed Aldara™ - imiquimod - Cream, 5%, a new method for treating genital warts, one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, affecting approximately 20 million people, and for treating certain skin cancers and pre-cancerous lesions. The cream is one of a family of medications being developed by the company that modify and strengthen the body's immune-response system. These immune-response modifiers have the potential to work against a wide range of viruses, skin conditions and tumors.

QLT Inc., Vancouver, B.C., developed Visudyne®, the only current bio-pharmaceutical treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55. The medication, which has been named to Business Week's top products list, treats "wet" AMD, characterized by the formation of abnormal blood vessels that grow under the central part of the retina known as the macula. These vessels leak and eventually cause scar tissue, which destroys central vision. Some 200,000 Americans lose their vision every year from wet AMD. Visudyne® is first injected into the patient's arm and then activated by shining a non-thermal laser light into the eye.

Schering-Plough Corporation, Kenilworth, N.J., discovered ZETIATM (ezetimibe), the first in a new class of cholesterol-lowering medicines and the first new treatment option since statins were introduced more than 15 years ago. ZETIA lowers cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the intestine, a unique way of working that is complementary to statins, which prevent cholesterol production in the liver. Clinical studies have demonstrated that adding ZETIA to a statin can lower LDL "bad" cholesterol significantly more than by using a statin alone. Clinical studies have shown that lowering LDL cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease. ZETIA was approved by the U.S. FDA in October 2002 for use either by itself or together with statins for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Wyeth, Pearl River, N.Y., developed Mylotarg®, the first drug approved in a new class of therapies called "antibody-targeted chemotherapy," which is used to treat an acute form of leukemia. The antibody delivers the drug directly into the cancer cell and does not affect normal tissue. Antibody-targeted chemotherapy uses a potent anti-tumor agent that attaches to the surface of the tumor cell and then kills the cell by breaking up its DNA. Mylotarg® is used for patients, usually over the age of 60, who have suffered a relapse from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). When combined with standard chemotherapy, the drug works more effectively than either therapy alone. Mylotarg® has substantially fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.

The 3M award winners:

John F. Gerster, Ph.D., retired in 1999 as a corporate scientist at 3M, but continues to consult for the company on a part-time basis. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Arizona State University in 1965.

Richard L. Miller, Ph.D., is a corporate scientist at 3M. He received a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Minnesota in 1974.

The QLT Inc. winner:

David H. Dolphin, Ph.D., is vice president, technology development, QLT Inc. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Nottingham, England, in 1965.

The Schering-Plough Corp. award winners:

Duane A. Burnett, Ph.D., is a research fellow at the Schering-Plough Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Ohio State University in 1986.

John W. Clader, Ph.D., is a distinguished research fellow at the Schering-Plough Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Indiana University in 1980.

Brian A. McKittrick, Ph.D., is an associate director of chemical research at the Schering-Plough Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Brandeis University in 1984.

Sundeep Dugar, Ph.D., is vice president, chemistry, Scios Inc. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Davis, in 1984.

Stuart B. Rosenblum, Ph.D., is a senior principal scientist at the Schering-Plough Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, in 1987.

The Wyeth award winners:

George Ellestad, Ph.D., is director, biophysical characterization, screening sciences, at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Pearl River, N.Y. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UCLA in 1962.

Philip Hamann, Ph.D., is principal research scientist, chemical and screening sciences at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Pearl River, N.Y. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Purdue University in 1983.

Janis Upeslacis, Ph.D., is director of medicinal chemistry in chemical and screening sciences, at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Pearl River, N.Y. He received a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from Harvard University in 1975.

Parimal R. Desai, Ph.D., is vice president, analytical and quality sciences, chemical and pharmaceutical development at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Pearl River, N.Y. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Penn State University in 1987.

Donald R. Miller, Ph.D., is director of global strategy for Rapamune at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Pearl River, N.Y. He received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Purdue University in 1984.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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