Issue Date: October 20, 2008
ACS Lauds Heroes Of Chemistry
"IMPROVING PEOPLE'S LIVES through the transforming power of chemistry" is the American Chemical Society's vision, and at ceremonies held at its national meeting in Philadelphia, the society honored 25 scientists who have made the vision reality. These Heroes of Chemistry were recognized at a gala reception and banquet attended by 170 people.
Started in 1996, the Heroes of Chemistry program honors chemical innovators in industry "whose work has led to the welfare and progress of humanity" in a significant way within the prior decade. Companies nominate their candidates, and an ACS panel then reviews the nominations with an eye to recognizing research that has led to the successful development and commercial sale of a technological product.
The Heroes of Chemistry program "strives for greater recognition of scientists like these who, like chemistry itself, often wear a cloak of invisibility so far as public awareness is concerned," ACS President Bruce E. Bursten said. "Their dedication and scientific contributions save lives and make life healthier and happier for billions of people around the world."
Not many people know Bruce Roth's name, but millions are healthier because of him. Roth is now senior director of discovery chemistry at Genentech, in South San Francisco, Calif. He discovered and developed atorvastatin, the cholesterol-lowering molecule that became the blockbuster drug Lipitor, in the mid-1980s while he was working at Warner-Lambert before its merger with Pfizer. Michael Varney, vice president of Genentech, called those achievements "monumental" in nominating Roth as a Hero of Chemistry.
"Currently, Lipitor is the largest selling pharmaceutical in the history of mankind, with annual sales of over $13 billion worldwide," Varney said. "The low-density-lipoprotein-lowering ability of Lipitor has contributed to the reduction of countless cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. By virtue of its clinical benefit, Lipitor has saved lives, reduced the pain and suffering of many people, and saved society and the health care system billions of dollars."
Another Hero of Chemistry is Karen E. Lackey, vice president of discovery medicinal chemistry at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Lackey's chemistry team was involved in discovering lapatinib, which became the anticancer drug Tykerb. First marketed in 2007 for advanced breast cancer, Tykerb is among a new family of anticancer medicines. It targets the 20 to 25% of breast cancers that produce too much human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a substance that enables tumors to grow quickly. Tykerb prevents these cancer cells from growing, dividing, and surviving.
Pfizer Global R&D's Duncan Armour, Blanda Stammen, Anthony Wood, and David Price were recognized as Heroes of Chemistry for research on the discovery of maraviroc. Maraviroc is a small-molecule drug that inhibits HIV-1 entry into cells by blocking the interaction between HIV-1 and the chemokine receptor CCR5 on host cells. With maraviroc acting as a CCR5 coreceptor antagonist, HIV-1 is rendered incapable of using the receptor and can't enter the host cell. "The discovery of maraviroc represents a significant breakthrough in treating HIV," Rod MacKenzie, Pfizer's senior vice president and head of worldwide research, said in the nomination. "It is possible that viral resistance to maraviroc will occur less frequently than resistance to other therapies."
For contributions to the discovery and development of a molecule that became an innovative new treatment for renal cell carcinoma, Magid Abou-Gharbia, Jerauld Skotnicki, James Gibbons, Ker Yu, Warren Chew, Joseph Camardo, and Gary Dukart of Wyeth Research were named Heroes of Chemistry. In 2007, Torisel (temsirolimus) was approved for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. Renal cell carcinoma accounts for about 85% of the 51,000 cases of kidney cancer diagnosed each year.
Torisel is the first approved cancer therapy that specifically acts on the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a key protein that regulates cell proliferation, growth, and survival. Although there is no cure for renal cell carcinoma, patients treated with Torisel have improved survival rates and suffer fewer side effects.
In the environmental sphere, an exceptional team of scientists from ExxonMobil Research & Engineering and Albemarle was honored; the team members were named Heroes of Chemistry. The ExxonMobil team consists of Michael C. Kerby, Ernie Lewis, Stephen J. McCarthy, Sabato Miseo, Kenneth L. Riley, and Stuart L. Soled. The Albemarle group includes M. B. Cerfontain, Sonja Eijsbouts, Hans W. Homan Free, Bob Leliveld, Bob Oogjen, and Frans L. Plantenga. These scientists developed and commercialized a new type of hydroprocessing catalyst called Nebula to produce cleaner diesel fuel. An integrated team of ExxonMobil and Albemarle scientists and engineers developed the catalyst. Albemarle commercially manufactures the product. Nebula is being used in multiple applications for the production of cleaner diesel fuel using existing equipment. Its use results in substantial savings in investment capital and elimination of three to four years in construction time for new equipment.
Nominations for the 2009 Heroes of Chemistry program will be accepted starting in January 2009. Visit www.acs.org/awards for further information.
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