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Philip Needleman spent 25 years at Washington University School of Medicine, where he was professor and chairman of the department of pharmacology. In 1989 he moved to industry, becoming senior vice president of Monsanto. In 1993 he became president of Searle Research and Development. He was also senior executive vice president and chief scientist of Pharmacia from 2000 to 2003.
Dr. Needleman’s research focuses on two main areas. His studies of the regulation of vascular, cardiac, and renal function led to the discovery of the mechanism of organic nitrate tolerance, the first peptide angiotensin antagonists, and the atrial natriuretic factor (the hormone by which the heart communicates with the kidney). His second area of research was on the role of prostaglandins in arthritis, an area in which he made multiple contributions culminating in the discovery of Cox-2, the isoform of cyclooxygenase responsible for the inflammation and pain suffered by arthritis patients. His work at Monsanto/Searle resulted in the 1998 FDA approval of Celebrex.
He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the John Jacob Abel Award of the American Pharmacology Society and the Research Achievement Award of the American Heart Association.
Listen to the Interview (requires free RealPlayer software):
Track 1: I Hadn't Been West of Patterson, New Jersey
Needleman discusses his roots as a first-generation American attending pharmacy school and his decision to pursue an advanced degree. Talking about his early work dealing with the study of the breakdown of nitroglycerin, Needleman describes his discovery of the phenomenon of first pass kinetics. (10 minutes)
Track 2: Pick the Problem, Then Find the Methods
At Washington University Needleman found both a comfortable collegial environment and a mentor in Oliver Lowry, who had invented methods for measuring carbohydrate metabolism. Needleman explores his work in mechanisms of tolerance and his discovery of the first angiotensin receptor antagonist. (9 minutes)
Track 3: I'll Bet You a Coke, You're Wrong
Needleman discusses his work on angiotensin including its role in hypertension and in regulating aldosterone and prostoglandin. He then talks about the beginning of his COX-2 hypothesis. (9 minutes)
Track 4: Hunting for the Naturetic Hormone
Needleman talks about Thromboxane and about his lab's search for the naturetic hormone. He then discusses his transition from academic to industrial research. (11 minutes)
Track 5: Balancing Safety with Progress
Needleman looks at the safety trials and approvals of Celebrex and Vioxx and at the way that drugs are approved by the government. (10 minutes)
Track 6: You Can’t Deal in Absolutes
Discussing his shift to industry after 25 years in academia, Needleman looks at the benefits of the big-team research aspect of industry, and how he would like to see some of this spirit come to the world of academic research. He also discusses his work with Ben Gurion University in Israel, with startup companies in St. Louis, and in venture capital. Analyzing the current state of drug research, he hopes for a larger role for academia in drug testing and for more shared, interdisciplinary research in universities. (9 minutes)
Last Updated: 4-10-2007
The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.