Elected: 1978
Discipline: Biomedical and Cognitive Sciences
Sir David Jack CBE FRS FRSE
Drug discovery today is a highly technical process involving computerised screening of libraries of chemical compounds for their ability to react with preparations containing possible drug targets, and selecting those which respond positively for further development. But it was not always thus. Most of the medicines we use today for treating common diseases such as asthma, angina pectoris and peptic ulcer were discovered in a different manner by small teams of chemists, experimental pharmacologists and clinicians, often led by a visionary scientist whose understanding of drug development and the nature of the underlying disease process were the key to successful drug discovery.

David Jack, who died in November 2011, was such a visionary. It is due to his grasp of the complexity of how the lungs respond to chemicals in both a beneficial and adverse manner that he and a small team were able to invent a series of medicines which have saved the lives of countless asthma sufferers and allowed most other asthmatics to live a normal symptom free life. The citation awarding him the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1978 named him one of the world’s most successful inventors of significant new medicines.

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