The natural products community honors Lasker Award winner, Dr Akira Endo

The Japanese scientist who grew fascinated by fungi as a boy is one among five of this years’ recipients of a Lasker Award. Endo was specifically given the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.
Dr Akira Endo first isolated the hypocholesterolemic compound, mevastatin or compactin, from Penicillium citrinum. Compactin was the forerunner to the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMG CoA reducatase) inhibitors. This fungal natural product gave rise to the cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs. While not without risk of adverse events, this drug class is widely considered life-saving (although some work suggests that while heart attack frequency is reduced, overall mortality may not be.).
Dr Endo’s story has long influenced my career and even showed up as I started this blog.
Congratulations, Dr Endo! I am not being melodramatic when I say that your commitment to the wonders of medicines from the earth has been a true benefit to mankind.
Update: The Lasker Foundation site has posted a link to a lovely and colorful essay by Dr Endo in the October 2008 issue of Nature Medicine, “A gift from nature: the birth of the statins” (PDF here) – get it while it’s still free-access.

4 thoughts on “The natural products community honors Lasker Award winner, Dr Akira Endo

  1. Woo! Statins! One of those “evil pharma synthetic” drugs that so many people don’t seem to realize has totally “natural” roots.
    I must concur that Dr. Endo’s achievement is quite spectacular, and I’m glad to see that he’s being recognized for it.

  2. that was indeed a fantastic achievement, i am glad to see it recognized. i wish more people knew the backstory about some of these compounds derived from natural origins. i sat in my college intro pharm class in absolute awe as i listened to this and other stories, and knew then that i was going to graduate school to become a pharmacologist.

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