October 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

After secondary education at Buckhaven High School, he became an apprentice pharmacist with Boots in Cupar, eschewing the opportunity to study mathematics at Edinburgh University. His ambitions at that time were to work in retail pharmacy but, having completed his apprenticeship, in 1944, he entered the BSc course in chemistry and pharmacy at the Royal Technical College in Glasgow where he won every undergraduate prize open to him and graduated with first class honours.Jack became an assistant lecturer in experimental pharmacology in the University of Glasgow, having turned down an offer to study for a PhD. He joined Glaxo Laboratories in 1951 as a pharmacist where his main role was to formulate new products and supervise their transfer to production. But he found this work repetitive and unfulfilling and in 1953 moved to Smith Kline and French as senior development pharmacist while at the same time studying for an external PhD at Chelsea College under the supervision of Professor Arnold Beckett (obituary, Feb 10, 2010).His exceptional research potential was easily recognised and in 1961 he was invited to become director of research and development at Allen & Hanburys, whose parent company was Glaxo. There, he created the unusually productive team which he deemed necessary to achieve his ambitions of inventing medicines to treat important human diseases, a venture new to the Glaxo group at that time.Remarkably, in the same small corner of West Fife in 1924, two clinical scientists were born who invented medicines which have had an overwhelming influence on world health. Their career paths were different but the end results were equally impressive. Jack was responsible for inventing drugs to treat asthma and to prevent it (salbutamol salmeterol, beclamethasone, fluticasone) while Sir James Black (obituary, Mar 24, 2010) invented drugs to treat angina and hypertension (propranolol) and peptic ulcer (cimetidine). Both were giants of drug discovery to whom society owes a great debt.Allen & Hanburys already had a steroid skin cream and it was argued that similar steroids could benefit asthma sufferers by damping down inflammation in the lungs.


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