Lecture in Brief: Dr. P. Roy Vagelos

By Ujunwa Cynthia Okoye-Okafor

Hosted by the Office of the Dean and the Einstein Medical Scientist Training Program, Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, retired Chairman and CEO of Merck, and current chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, spoke to the members of the Einstein community on September 12, 2012 about his journey and career in biomedical research.

During his time at Merck, Dr. Vagelos led studies that resulted in the development of several drugs, most notably Ivermectin and various statins. His involvement with the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin led to its provision to parts of Africa where river blindness is prevalent. River blindness or onchocerciasis affects as many as 18 million people worldwide. Thanks to Dr. Vagelos, Merck started providing the drug at no cost and led to the start of a number of similar programs in Africa by other pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Vagelos provided insight into several novel therapies for a variety of disease processes including Hepatitis C and melanoma, and exciting future developments. He also discussed the limitations within the pharmaceutical industry, especially the lack of incentives that the industry is faced with in regards to developing certain types of drugs.

In one sentence, Dean of Medicine Dr. Spiegel summarized the inspirational anecdotes from the session: “Science is still the way forward…the economics will find a way and that what you are doing whether it will be in clinical medicine, as physician scientists, as graduate students, there are phenomenal opportunities to really improve human health.”

Photo provided by Ujunwa Cynthia Okoye-Okafor. Cynthia is a Contributing Editor to EJBM.

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