Chemist wins national award for contributions in medicinal chemistry

Paul S. Anderson, Ph.D., of Lansdale, Pa., will be honored March 28 by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, for a lifetime of contributions to medicinal chemistry, including the development of drugs to treat AIDS, glaucoma and high cholesterol. He will receive the 2006 Priestley Medal, the Society’s highest honor, at its national meeting in Atlanta.

"I have had the privilege of working with many great colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry and other professional endeavors. I view the Priestley Medal as a very nice form of recognition for our joint efforts in both spheres of life," said Anderson, who currently serves on the boards of directors of several companies and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of the Gordon Research Conferences.

At Merck & Co., Anderson and coworkers succeeded in designing enzyme inhibitors as therapeutic agents. Out of this effort came Zocor®, a statin widely prescribed for lowering cholesterol, and Trusopt®, a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor used to treat glaucoma. More recently, Anderson has directed research efforts at Merck and DuPont Pharmaceuticals on chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of AIDS. This research resulted in the development of the HIV protease inhibitor Crixivan® and the HIV reverse transcriptase inhibitor Sustiva®.

Anderson began his professional career at Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories where he rose from Senior Research Chemist to Vice President of Chemistry. He retired from Merck in 1994 to become Senior Vice President of Chemical and Physical Sciences for the DuPont-Merck Pharmaceuticals Company, which became the DuPont Pharmaceutical Company in 1998. In 2001, Anderson became Vice President for Drug Discovery for Bristol-Myers Squibb, retiring the following year.

In 1997 Anderson served as President of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Among Anderson's other professional honors are a stint as chair of the Medicinal Chemistry Division of the ACS in 1987, chair of the 1991 Gordon Research Conference on Medicinal Chemistry and member (1985-88) and then chair of the NIH Study Section on Bioorganic Chemistry and Natural Products (1988-89). Anderson's appreciation of the history of chemistry — to which he has devoted his career — is reflected in his serving as chair of the ACS National Chemical Historic Landmarks Program as well as on the board of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Anderson is the author of over 100 professional publications, holder of 19 patents and presenter of more than 50 professional papers at scientific meeting.

In remarks prepared for delivery in accepting the Priestley Medal, Anderson notes that drug discovery has moved from the need to discover a lead molecule that exhibits biological activity with potential therapeutic value to a more rational modern basis for drug discovery, one that designs drugs for a specific need. "Today one can frequently link an opportunity that addresses an unmet or unsatisfied clinical need to a specific biological mechanism for drug action," Anderson says.

This mechanism can be seen in the development of drugs to treat HIV. Anderson points out scientists first isolated the virus and determined its genetic sequence, leading to researchers learning which viral enzymes were possible chemotherapy targets. "Virology, biochemistry and molecular biology set the stage," Anderson observes, "for medicinal chemists to design medicines that would inhibit the viral enzymes… This discovery story reveals the interdisciplinary nature of modern drug discovery and the impact of advanced technology."

The Priestley award and its gold medallion are named for Joseph Priestley, who reported the discovery of oxygen in 1774. The American Chemical Society has recognized groundbreaking chemists with the annual award since 1923, when it conveyed the first Priestley Medal to Ira Remsen, the chemist credited with bringing laboratory research to American universities.

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The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


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