Vane, John R(obert) 1927-2004

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VANE, John R(obert) 1927-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born March 29, 1927, in Tardebigge, Worcestershire, England; died of complications from bone fractures November 19, 2004, in Farnborough, England. Pharmacologist, educator, and author. Vane was a Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist most noted for his discovery of how aspirin works, which in turn led to more uses for the popular drug, as well as to the development of other medications. As a child, Vane fell in love with experimentation, spending many hours playing with a chemistry set his parents had given him. However, when he started attending the University of Birmingham, he found he did not like chemistry, just experimentation. After graduating with a B.S. in 1946, a professor suggested he take up pharmacology. At the time, Vane was not sure what that was, but he accepted the proposal and enrolled at Oxford University, where, discovering his aptitude for pharmacology, he received a B.S. in 1949 and a Ph.D. in 1953. He then taught for two years at Yale University and for six years at the Institute of Basic Medical Science at the Royal College of Surgeons. During the early 1960s, he was a reader at London University, and from 1966 to 1973 he was a professor of experimental pharmacology there. Despite advice against it from his friends, Vane left academia for a job in private industry with the Wellcome Foundation in 1973. It was during this period that he made his discovery of prostacyclin, a type of prostaglandin that is responsible for generating fever and pain when a body is sick or in trauma. Vane also learned that aspirin works by blocking cyclooxygenase, which in turn stops the production of prostaglandins, thus reducing fever, swelling, and pain. This work led to his being the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1982. Vane's discovery also led to the creation of a variety of pain-relief medicines categorized as COX-2 drugs, such as Vioxx, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are used to treat circulatory and heart problems. Vane was the author or editor of numerous books on pharmacology, including Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (1979), Perspectives in Prostaglandin Research (1983), and Selective COX-2 Inhibitors: Pharmacology, Clinical Effects, and Therapeutic Potential (1998).



Chicago Tribune, November 23, 2004, section 3, p. 12.

New York Times, November 23, 2004, p. C17.

Times, November 25, 2004, p. 71.

Washington Post, November 24, 2004, p. B7.