FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 13, 2008

Chemical Society to honor “Heroes of Chemistry” during National Meeting

Note to news media: A press briefing on this topic is scheduled for 4 p.m. August 17 in Room 303 A-B of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, with live access via the Internet.

Chemical Society to honor “Heroes of Chemistry” during National Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 13, 2008 — Bruce Roth’s name may not be on the tip of many tongues, but his invention has been on more than 26 million in the United States alone. Inventor of Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering pill that is the world’s largest selling drug, Roth is among 25 unsung scientific heroes who are being inducted into an American Chemical Society (ACS) hall of fame called the Heroes of Chemistry.

The other new Heroes include Karen E. Lackey, Glaxo SmithKline Pharmaceuticals, for work on discovery of a new breast cancer drug; a team from Pfizer Global Research & Development that discovered a new drug for HIV infection; a team from Wyeth Research that discovered and developed a new drug for renal cell carcinoma; and scientists from Exxon Mobil Corporation and Albemarle Corporation who discovered a way to make cleaner diesel fuel.

“Heroes of Chemistry 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,” said Bruce E. Bursten, Ph.D., president of the American Chemical Society and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Their dedication and scientific contributions save lives and make life healthier and happier for billions of people around the world.”

The 2008 Heroes of Chemistry will be honored on Aug. 17 in Philadelphia during the 236th National Meeting of the ACS, the world’s largest scientific society. The awards ceremony and dinner in the Four Seasons hotel will include a keynote speech by former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison. Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, became the first black woman to travel in space when she flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992.

Roth set foot on the path toward inventing the molecule — atorvastatin — that became Lipitor in 1982, when he joined the Warner-Lambert/Parke Davis Co. in Ann Arbor, Mich., as part of a project to discover drugs to inhibit the body’s production of cholesterol. After synthesizing atorvastatin, he served as the lead discovery chemist who helped shepherded Lipitor through clinical trials. Pfizer Incorporated merged with Warner-Lambert in 2000 and markets Lipitor.

Michael Varney, Ph.D., a vice president of Genentech, the pharmaceutical firm in South San Francisco, Calif., which Roth joined in 2007, termed those achievements “monumental” in nominating Bruce 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 the lives of many people, reduced the pain and suffering of many people, and saved society and the health care system billions of dollars.”

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 in the past decade. Candidates are nominated by their companies and an ACS panel review the nominations with an eye to recognizing research that has lead to the successful development and commercial sale of a technological product.”

The other 2008 Heroes of Chemistry have made extraordinary contributions, according to the review panel. They are:

  • Karen E. Lackey, vice president of discovery medicinal chemistry, Glaxo SmithKline Pharmaceuticals, Research Triangle Park, NC. Lackey’s chemistry team was involved in discovering the lapatinib molecule, which became the anti-cancer drug TYKERB. First marketed in 2007 for advanced breast cancer, TYKERB is among a new family of “targeted” anti-cancer medicines. It targets the 20-25 percent of breast cancers that produce too much of a substance that enables tumors to grow quickly. In doing so, TYKERB may prevent these cancer cells from growing, dividing, and surviving.
  • Anthony Wood, Ph.D., David Price, Ph.D., Blanda Stammen, Ph.D., and Duncan Armour, of Pfizer Global Research & Development for research on the discovery of maraviroc. In 2007, that molecule went into medical use as SelzentryTM (CelsentriTM in Europe), the first of a new class of drugs for infection with the HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “The discovery of maraviroc represents a significant breakthrough in treating HIV,” Rod MacKenzie, Ph.D., 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.”
  • Magid Abou-Gharbia, Ph.D., Jerauld Skotnicki, Ph.D., James Gibbons, Ph.D., Ker Yu, Ph.D., Warren Chew, Ph.D., Joseph Camardo, M.D., and Gary Dukart, M.D., of Wyeth Research for contributions to the discovery and development of a molecule called temsirolimus that became an innovative new treatment for renal cell carcinoma. Magid Abou-Gharbia, Ph.D., Jerauld Skotnicki, Ph.D., James Gibbons, Ph.D., Ker Yu, Ph.D., Warren Chew, Ph.D., Joseph Camardo, M.D., and Gary Dukart, M.D., of Wyeth Research for contributions to the discovery and development of a molecule called temsirolimus that became an innovative new treatment for renal cell carcinoma. In 2007, Torisel (temsirolimus) was approved for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. Renal cell carcinoma accounts for about 85 percent of the 51,000 cases of kidney cancer diagnosed each year.
  • Sonja Eijsbouts, Ph.D., M.B. Cerfontain, Ph.D., Hans W. Homan Free, Michael C. Kerby, Ph.D., Bob Leliveld, Ph.D., Ernie Lewis, Ph.D., Stephen J. McCarthy, Sabato Miseo, Bob Oogjen, Frans L. Plantenga, Ph.D., Kenneth Lloyd Riley, Ph.D., Stuart L. Soled, Ph.D., of Albemarle Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation. Responding to more stringent air pollution regulations for diesel fuel sulfur content, the scientists developed and commercialized a new type of catalyst, called Nebula, that allows refineries to produce cleaner diesel fuel.

Additional information on the 2008 Heroes, and the Heroes program, is available from Michael Bernstein (m_bernstein@acs.org).

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— Mike Woods