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Archive for Friday, October 2, 2009

Leader in development of antiviral drugs to speak at KU

Pharmaceutical industry CEO has helped develop antiviral drugs

October 2, 2009

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The chief executive of a biopharmaceutical company is the 2009 Takeru Higuchi Memorial lecturer, and will deliver two speeches on the Kansas University campus on Thursday. 10-8

John C. Martin, CEO of Gilead Sciences, has led the development of many antiviral drugs useful in treating a variety of viral diseases, including AIDS.

Val Stella, university distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, said Martin’s company developed the drug Atripla, which combined three components into one tablet, taken once a day to fight AIDS.

“It is now the drug of choice that patients are first put on,” Stella said.

The company also discovered and developed the antiviral drug Tamiflu before selling the rights later, Stella said.

Martin’s first lecture, scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the Simons Laboratories Auditorium, is designed for the scientific community and is called “A Brief History of Nucleotide Antivirals.”

The second lecture is meant for the public at large, and focuses on “Ensuring Access to HIV Medications in the Developing World: An Industry Perspective.” It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, also in the Simons Laboratories Auditorium on the university’s West Campus.

Stella said Martin has been an advocate for making drugs available to people who need them.

“John is one of those quiet leaders who is figuring out how companies like Gilead can make those life-saving drugs available in developing companies without compromising their patents,” Stella said.

Three KU alumni now working for Gilead — Reza Oliyai, Vahid Zia and Bei Li — will accompany Martin during his visit and will be recruiting KU students for potential positions, Stella said.

Martin is the 11th Higuchi lecturer, a program that honors Takeru Higuchi, a KU regents professor of pharmacy and chemistry who died in 1987.

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