California chemist wins national award for drug discoveries

Paul J. Reider of Thousand Oaks, Calif., will be honored March 25 by the world's largest scientific society for his pivotal role in the development of new therapies for AIDS, asthma and arthritis. He will receive the 2003 Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in New Orleans.

It was as a chemist-turned-vice-president at Merck Research Laboratories that Reider helped change how pharmaceutical companies conduct research and expedite development of promising new medicines.

His research team synthesized and helped deliver to AIDS patients in 1996 the first effective treatment for the deadly viral disease. Indinavir, trademarked as Crixivan, still holds the FDA record for the fastest drug approval ever: 42 days.

"With Dr. Reider at the helm, [Merck's] process research was completed under remarkable pressure: there was a desperate need to rush drug to patients; the doses were about 100 times those for most chronic therapies; and once a patient began treatment, he or she could never be allowed to run out of indinavir," wrote a colleague to nominate him for the award.

"The line between drug discovery and drug development was traditionally a strict border -- people in development never worked on a drug until after the company collected huge amounts of data and committed to it," said Reider, now with the biotechnology company Amgen. "We asked, why not work on it earlier? Yes, there's a risk, but the payoff was better. Drugs got in the hands of patients faster."

Reider took the same approach with two other projects of which he is proud, he said: the drug Singulair, which he also takes for his own asthma, and the arthritis reliever Vioxx.

"My philosophy as a manager is to not think of myself as a manager at all but as a chemist," he said. "I walk through labs, talk to people, offer specific suggestions about their work and sometimes even do so

Contact: Allison Byrum
American Chemical Society

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