Vane, Sir John R.

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VANE, SIR JOHN R. (1927–2004), U.K. pharmacologist. Vane was born in Tardebigg, Worcestershire, the son of a father descended from Russian immigrants and an English mother. His family lived in Birmingham where he was educated at King Edward vi High School. Although he gained his B.Sc. in chemistry from the University of Birmingham University (1946), he realized that this subject of his boyhood fascination no longer interested him. He studied pharmacology at Oxford University, where he obtained his D.Phil. (1953) from the University's Nuffield Institute for Medical Research under the direction of Geoffrey Dawes. He was assistant professor in the department of pharmacology of Yale University (1953–55) before joining the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of the University of London, eventually sited at the Royal College of Surgeons (1955–73) where he became professor of experimental pharmacology. He left to become Group Research and Development Director of the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories in Beckenham, Kent (1973–86). In 1986 he founded a new laboratory at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, University of London which developed into the William Harvey Research Institute. Vane established a novel method for directly detecting and measuring unstable hormones and mediators in small blood samples from experimental animals. His main interest was the large and complicated group of substances called prostaglandins and the manner in which these regulate blood flow. He made major contributions to the discovery of the member of this group called prostacyclin clarifying its role in inhibiting blood clots. He showed that the therapeutic effects of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs result from inhibiting the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase, also part of the prostaglandin group. For these discoveries, he was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, shared with Sune Bergström and Bengt Samuelsson. He also participated in and directed research that led to the introduction of drugs inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ace), now routinely used to treat high blood pressure and some forms of heart disease. He also worked on the pharmacological regulation of the specialized cells lining blood vessels. He was deeply concerned with international scientific collaboration and especially with Polish scientists. His many honors included election to the Royal Society (1974), the Bunim Medal of the American Rheumatism Association (1979), and foreign membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1982) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1983). He was also awarded the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Science (1977), a knighthood (1984), and the Polish Order of Merit (2003).

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]

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Vane, Sir John R.

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