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John C. Martin, Gilead Sciences, Inc., received the 2019 NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society.

Martin has made vital contributions to the development of antiviral medications used to treat HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus, and influenza. His work has had a positive impact on millions of individuals around the world, and he is well known for his tireless efforts to ensure that all of humanity, rich and poor alike, benefit from these treatments.

Trained as an organic chemist, Martin focused on using chemistry as a tool to discover and develop potent antiviral drugs. His first major accomplishment came in 1989 with the FDA approval of the first treatment for cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis in HIV patients, a devastating disease leading to blindness. Martin’s approach has included the development of biologically inactive compounds called prodrugs that can traverse cell membranes and be metabolized into an active drug. The research led to prodrugs that revolutionized treatment of HIV/AIDS and related diseases and infections.

Martin’s work continued at Bristol-Myers and then at Gilead Sciences, which under his management became the world’s leading antiviral company. There he not only aimed to develop a new paradigm for pharmaceutical industry pricing and intellectual property, he also led the company in the creation of lifesaving medicines for influenza, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, including new combination therapies that have cured more than 3 million people of HCV infection.

Today more than 15 million people around the world living with HIV, hepatitis B, and/or hepatitis C are on Gilead medicines, including more than 60 percent of patients being treated for HIV who receive their medications through Gilead’s novel not-for-profit access program –one aspect of Martin’s humanitarian contribution to the world.

Established by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society is awarded biennially for contributions to chemistry, either in fundamental science or its application, that clearly satisfy a societal need. The award is given in alternate years to chemists working in industry and to those in academia, government, and nonprofit organizations.


Watch Martin's Acceptance Speech »

Press Release »

NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society »

2019 NAS Award Recipients »

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