Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2010) — Three scientists who led the 11-year quest to develop a groundbreaking HIV drug today received the 2010 Discoverers Award – the highest honor given to scientists by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The honorees are Tony Wood, Ph.D., Elna van der Ryst, M.D., Ph.D. and Manos Perros, Ph.D.
PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin (left) and three-time Olympic medalist Greg Louganis (right) flank Discoverers Award winners (left to right) Drs. Tony Wood, Elna van der Ryst and Manos Perros.
The medicine, SELZENTRY® (maraviroc), is a new class of drug and unlike most HIV therapies, rather than attacking the virus, blocks its entry into human cells. SELZENTRY was proven effective in clinical trials even among patients who had run out of options because they were resistant to or intolerant of all other available therapies.
HIV infects a cell by binding to a specific molecule, or co-receptor, on the cell. Data from clinical trials suggest that in more than 80 percent of newly infected patients, the co-receptor CCR5 is the virus’ door to the cell – meaning the patient has CCR5-tropic HIV. Additional clinical trials suggest that approximately 50 percent of patients who have had the disease for an extended period are still CCR5-tropic. The revolutionary treatment discovered by scientists at New York-based Pfizer Inc. blocks the virus’ entry through the CCR5 molecule.
SELZENTRY was the first new oral medication for HIV in 10 years when it was approved in 2007 for CCR5-tropic patients already taking antiretroviral treatment. In November 2009, the Food and Drug Administration also approved it for newly infected patients who are CCR5-tropic. More than half of the more than one million Americans infected with HIV are CCR5-tropic and thus potential candidates to benefit from SELZENTRY.
Drs. Wood, van der Ryst and Perros accepted the award at a luncheon at PhRMA’s annual meeting today in Arlington, Va. Awards were presented by PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin and by two-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis.
Louganis (view speech) said that when he was first diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1988, the disease was considered by many a death sentence. He was prepared to go home, lock the door and wait to die. Instead, his life was saved through new medicines. Most recently, he began taking SELZENTRY and today was looking forward to thanking the scientists for their work.
“I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the team that was in the right place at the right time to convert science into something of value to mankind,” Dr. Wood said in an interview prior to the award. “We not only found a medicine, but firsts in many ways in terms of science.”
Dr. van der Ryst, (view speech) who began researching HIV after the deaths of both friends and patients in her native South Africa, said her years working on SELZENTRY were the most exciting of her life. Dr. Perros added, “It doesn’t take tens of thousands or millions of patients to make the work feel worthwhile. To sit with one person who survived and is healthy because of medicine you worked on is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.”
PhRMA’s Discoverers Award recognizes scientists whose work has greatly benefited mankind.
“These extraordinary honorees not only have saved untold numbers of lives, but have also improved the quality of lives for many HIV patients,” said Tauzin. “All three devoted a significant portion of their lives to developing this medicine. We are proud to pay tribute to their skills and to their perseverance as they overcame huge obstacles.”
Dr. Wood (view speech) is currently Vice-President and Head of Worldwide Medicinal Chemistry for Pfizer; Dr. van der Ryst is a Pfizer Senior Director in Clinical Research. Dr. Perros (view speech) was recently named Director of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, a not-for-profit mission to combat neglected diseases among poor populations.
“The discovery of SELZENTRY is a great example of what researchers at Pfizer and in other labs around the world are striving to do every day – use science and technology to help find new treatments and cures for some of the most feared diseases of our time,” said Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Kindler. “The honorees’ vision, dedication and leadership played a critical role in helping our company develop a medicine that can help reduce the number of people who have to suffer and improve the health of HIV patients around the world.”
“To successfully bring a new medicine to patients is the most rewarding part of our business,” said Martin Mackay, President of Pfizer PharmaTherapeutics R&D. “We are proud of these scientists and their terrific team of drug discoverers and developers. We extend our appreciation to the patients who took part in clinical trials and those whose experience with SELZENTRY continues to advance medical knowledge of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.”
Three men who helped bring SELZENTRY from the lab to patients and a patient who participated in clinical trials also were recognized today as recipients of PhRMA’s Clinical Trial Exceptional Service Award.
Dr. James Goodrich, Ph.D., M.D., was senior director of clinical development at Pfizer’s Global Research and Development facilities in New London, Ct. Recently he became a vice president with ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. ViiV currently holds the NDA for SELZENTRY.
Dr. Jayvant Heera continues with Pfizer and works out of the New London center as the global clinical leader for SELZENTRY. He is a medical doctor and member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, Royal College of Physicians in London.
Dr. David Hardy, M.D., is director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
John J. Duran was recognized as representative of patients in the clinical trials. An attorney and well-known and widely respected advocate for HIV/AIDS patients, Duran is an attorney and a current councilmember and former mayor of West Hollywood, California.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures. PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $50.3 billion in 2008 in discovering and developing new medicines. Industry-wide research and investment reached a record $65.2 billion in 2008.
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