News @ VCU School of Pharmacy
RDD 2012 Charles G. Thiel Award goes to Andy Clark of Novartis
The 2012 Charles G. Thiel Award was presented to Andy Clark of Woodside, Calif., May 14 at Respiratory Drug Delivery 2012 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Clark is the fourth recipient of the biennial award, which recognizes outstanding research and discovery in the area of respiratory drug delivery. The award originated on the 50th anniversary of the commercialization of the pressurized metered dose inhaler and in celebration of Charles Thiel’s foundational work in the field of pulmonary drug delivery. The award is administered by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics and is endowed by 3M Drug Delivery Systems.
A meeting of the minds at RDD 2012: Peter Byron (left), chairman of
VCU School of Pharmacy Department of Pharmaceutics;
Andy Clark, recipient of the 2012 Thiel Award; and Charles G. Thiel,
for whom the award was named.
Peter Byron, chairman of VCU School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics, said, “Andy has had an extremely productive career developing and improving a variety of inhalers. Originally a physicist, he is a great example of an original thinker who found he could apply his intellect to a variety of areas while simultaneously having fun!
“During his Ph.D., he modeled the spray performance of propellant-based metered dose inhalers – enabling, at least in part, an improved basic MDI theory prior to the redesign of Charlie Thiel’s original inhalers with ozone-friendly pressurized devices. More recently, he pioneered the study and science needed to pursue next-generation powder inhalers that now are the major propellant-free system for inhaled drugs.”
Clark, who currently serves as chief technical officer and site head for Novartis’ San Carlos pulmonary development facility, followed an unusual career path. Having done the equivalent of dropping out of high school in his native United Kingdom, he went to work as a research technician at a university laboratory that he describes as “coincidentally, just down the road. It happened to be a chemical engineering department specializing in particle technology and aerosol science research.”
Happenstance or not, that first job in a then-rare specialty led to his finishing high school, earning a bachelor of science degree in applied physics from Demontfort University in Leicester and later a Ph.D. in aerosol science at Loughborough University of Technology.
Clark moved to the pharmaceutical industry “for a change” and began working for Fisons Pharmaceuticals in Loughborough. “Life is full of wonderful coincidences,” he remarks. “I spend nine years in a university department gaining some very special skills, and in the same town there’s a pharmaceutical research and development site developing products that need that very same skill set!” While at Fisons, he completed his Ph.D. on the thermodynamics of pressurized metered dose inhalers.
From Fisons, he moved to Genentech Inc. in South San Francisco and then to Nektar Therapeutics Inc. (formerly Inhale Therapeutic Systems) in San Carlos before “being acquired” by Novartis in 2001.
Nominating Clark for the Thiel Award, John S. Patton wrote, “Andy is one of the big stars of our business. He is not only an excellent scientist and inventor, but he is also a thought leader, supporter of professional societies and a very adept and skilled manager and director of pharmaceutical development programs (a very tough job in its own right!)”
Patton, who is president and CEO of Dance Pharmaceuticals Inc. in San Francisco, specifically cited Clark’s work in developing or helping to develop some of the most innovative new aerosol products of the last two decades, including Pulmozyme, the first inhaled protein; Exubera, the first inhaled systemic protein, insulin; and TOBI Podhaler, the first inhaled dry powder antibiotic, tobramycin.
Asked what he considers the highlights in his career thus far, Clark’s first response is, “Working on the Apollo program!” At Loughborough University, he assisted with studies and research on lunar dust samples from Apollo 11 and Apollo 16. “I still have the photographs hanging on the study wall,” he says.
He notes that he also was privileged to serve as president of the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine from 2001 to 2003. (He was honored with the ISAM Young Investigator Award in 1993 and the Thomas T. Mercer Award for excellence in pharmaceutical aerosols and inhalable materials in 2005.)
As for his research, Clark says, “I’ve really been pretty lucky, having been involved in three new drug products that have got all the way to market, which is kind of unusual in this industry. That really is lucky; new chemical entities more often than not fail in development.”
Modesty aside, Byron describes Clark, first and foremost, as “a physical scientist who has never lost his early interest in understanding and improving complex drug delivery systems. At RDD, we are most fortunate to have had the benefit of his wisdom during a time in which the physical sciences have dominated the development and improvement of a large number of drug inhalers.”
In a letter nominating Clark for the Thiel Award, Jeffrey Weers, executive director and head of product development for Novartis, outlined a number of Clark’s accomplishments in the field. Echoing Patton’s comment, he wrote, “Despite the significant managerial burden associated with leading the San Carlos site of 200 employees, Andy still finds time to pursue research problems in aerosol delivery. His focus of late has been on improving our understanding of regional deposition in the lungs and its impact on in-vitro and in-vivo correlations … On top of all this, he is a fine human being and a pleasure to work with an be around.”
Nominator Chris O’Callaghan, professor of respiratory and pediatric medicine at University College London, wrote, “I have had the privilege of knowing both Andy and Charlie. … It is the same full-on enthusiasum, innovation and love of science as Charlie that makes Andy such an obvious scientist to gain the Charlie Thiel Award.”
Patton concluded, “I would easily rate him among the top five medical aerosol scientists in the world and perhaps, if you narrow this field to encompass understanding the physical and thermodynamic aspects of aerosol behavior in devices and in the laboratory and the human body, he is perhaps the best!”
As far as “spare time” goes, Clark lists his hobbies as astrophysics, astronomy and aviation. He was serious enough about astrophysics to have begun a master’s degree in it before his career took a turn toward pharmaceutical research and development.
He “picked up piloting” about 12 years ago, he says, as an antidote to work. With the same enthusiasm he has applied to his career, he now has earned several pilot ratings and flies his own planes. He and his wife have three children whose interests range from graphic art to computer engineering to blacksmithing.
“They all hate science!” he laughs. Fortunately for science, that was not the case with Clark.
In 2006, the inaugural Thiel Award was presented to Charles G. Thiel himself. In 2008, Lars Borgstrom of AstraZeneca and Uppsala University in Sweden received the award, and in 2010 it went to Michael Newhouse of Hamilton, Ontario, who pioneered the design, manufacture, research and use of the AeroChamber. Clark has collaborated with each of them.
Learn more about Clarke by clicking here to view a feature, "Who's Who: Andy Clark, Ph.D.," that appeared last year in AAPS PharmSciTech journal..
Respiratory Drug Delivery is a series of international symposia designed for academic and industrial scientists involved in the development, investigation, preparation and delivery of old and new therapeutic entities by aerosol systems. RDD 2011 in Berlin, Germany, attracted nearly 500 international attendees. RDD originated with VCU School of Pharmacy's Aerosol Research Group. For details, click here.