Ronald Cresswell obituary | Prescription drugs business


In 1960 the chemist Ronald Cresswell, who has died aged 86, had a fortunate break. Because of travelling from Glasgow to take up a submit in New York he attended a convention of the American Chemical Society, met the biochemist George Hitchings, they usually bonded over their mutual curiosity in folic acid.

Hitchings labored on the Burroughs Wellcome laboratory in Tuckahoe, north of NY city, the place he and Gertrude Elion developed a variety of medicines, finally, in 1988, changing into Nobel laureates. After they provided Cresswell a job in 1962, it proved to be the chance of a lifetime for the younger scientist.

Cresswell’s background in chemistry, coupled with management potential and a shrewd enterprise imaginative and prescient, led to him changing into head of chemical growth in 1964. He had discovered his metier, bringing a string of significant medication to market.

Within the Sixties he shepherded the compound allopurinol by the licensing course of to create the gout drug Zyloric. Such had been the income that Burroughs Wellcome had been in a position to broaden, transferring to state-of-the-art laboratories at Analysis Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Cresswell additionally noticed a possibility for a Burroughs Wellcome antibiotic referred to as trimethoprim. It had a synergistic motion with a compound owned by the laboratory Roche, and Cresswell brokered a take care of Roche to create co-trimoxazole. Branded as Septrin, it’s nonetheless a key antibiotic for pneumonia and lots of severe infections.

At Triangle Park, researchers within the 70s had been learning antivirals and thought the substance acyclovir could possibly be efficient towards the herpes virus. Thymidine, a part of DNA, was mandatory for getting the drug to the virus. Cresswell managed to license it in in order that his workforce may proceed their analysis. He additionally labored to persuade sceptical advertising and marketing and senior administration that there actually was a marketplace for this fledgling new drug to deal with genital herpes and infections in immune-compromised sufferers.

Pedro Cuatrecasas, who labored for Cresswell for many years, stated his boss’s championing of the workforce’s work was important. Within the Journal of Medical Investigation he wrote: “Most firms’ prime administration doesn’t perceive the complexities of science, its mode of conduct or targets … In the course of the drug discovery and growth of acyclovir (Zovirax), advertising and marketing insisted that there have been ‘no markets’ for this compound. Most had hardly heard of genital herpes … Happily, on the time, analysis administration [Cresswell] had the authority and information to render selections.”

Ronald and Sheila Cresswell attending a fundraising event at the National Arts Club, New York, 2010. They set up a family foundation, and supported many arts and charitable causes.
Ronald and Sheila Cresswell attending a fundraising occasion on the Nationwide Arts Membership, New York, 2010. They arrange a household basis, and supported many arts and charitable causes. {Photograph}: Patrick McMullan/Getty Pictures

He maintained that the identical held for Cresswell’s sturdy insistence within the case of quite a few different compounds. Vindication got here when Zovirax, licensed in 1982, turned Burroughs Wellcome’s most profitable drug of all time, with annual gross sales of greater than $1bn.

Within the 80s Burroughs Wellcome studied different promising antivirals, together with azidothymidine (AZT). It had initially been developed as a most cancers drug, however was put aside when it didn’t work.

Cresswell wished to fast-track testing it towards the virus HIV, because the epidemic was gathering pressure. The US Meals and Drug Administration had a rigorous however prolonged course of for licensing medication, and Cresswell had a profitable all-night assembly in 1986 with Donald Regan, the White Home chief of workers, to steer him to hurry up licensing to save lots of lives.

On the time, Burroughs Wellcome had been operating a randomised managed trial to check its efficacy, and after simply 16 weeks determined to cease, as a result of they had been getting good outcomes and to proceed with the trial would have been unethical, delaying these within the management group getting the drug. In March 1987 AZT got here to market with the model identify Retrovir after simply 20 months’ growth – a file.

In 1988 Cresswell was headhunted to run the analysis division of one other pharmaceutical big, Warner-Lambert, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was credited with bringing hope again to a demoralised workforce there.

A ultimate coup for Cresswell was to deliver the statin Lipitor to market in 1997. Scientists had been about to shelve the compound CI-981 that that they had spent eight years learning as a result of in animal research it was no higher at decreasing ldl cholesterol than competing medication. However underneath Cresswell’s management they discovered a option to manufacture it that elevated its efficiency.

In 1995 Cresswell took half in one of many medical trials, recording that his ldl cholesterol dropped from 160 to 90. He stated: “I faxed my outcomes to my heart specialist. He faxed again: ‘You’ve acquired a winner.’” Nicknamed “turbostatin”, the drug, branded as Lipitor, turned the world’s bestselling drugs.

Born in Glasgow, Ronald was the youthful of two sons of Ambrose Cresswell, who managed a textile manufacturing facility, and his spouse, Joan (nee Dunlop). After attending Whitehill secondary college, he studied utilized chemistry on the College of Glasgow, receiving his BSc in 1957 and PhD in 1960. In 1991 he was happy to be made an honorary professor of chemistry on the College of Michigan.

In 1955, Cresswell met Sheila Livingstone, who labored for a financial institution. They married in Glasgow Cathedral in 1959, and the encounter the next yr with Hitchings got here as the results of a two-year contract on the Sloan Kettering Institute, the most cancers analysis organisation based mostly in New York.

Although Cresswell carried out his profession within the US, dwelling primarily in Ann Arbor, his Scottish identification remained essential, and he returned each summer time. He supported the First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor and arrange the Cresswell Household Basis to learn the humanities, in addition to encouraging the businesses he labored for to provide to charities corresponding to United Approach.

Enjoying tennis and staying match had been of cardinal significance. One in all his daughters famous: “He used to work out earlier than folks used that time period,” and he practised pilates till the month earlier than his dying.

He’s survived by Sheila, their 5 daughters, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and his elder brother, John.

Ronald Morton Cresswell, pharmaceutical scientist and government, born 30 September 1934; died 16 April 2021



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