Taylor to receive Heroes of Chemistry award

Princeton chemist Edward C. Taylor has been named a recipient of the 2006 Heroes of Chemistry award from the American Chemical Society for his contributions to the development of a groundbreaking cancer drug.

Taylor, Princeton's A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus, is one of 24 scientists to be honored as "chemical innovators whose work has led to the welfare and progress of humanity" over the past decade, according to the society.

The Heroes of Chemistry awards will be presented at the American Chemical Society's national meeting Sept. 10 in San Francisco.

Taylor was cited for his role in the discovery of Alimta, a cancer drug developed by Eli Lilly and Co. Alimta, in combination with the drug cisplatin, is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that often is caused by asbestos exposure. Alimta does not cure mesothelioma, but has proven to extend patients' lives and greatly reduce their pain.

In the 1980s, Taylor began a long-term collaboration with scientists at Lilly that resulted in several potential drugs. The compound that became Alimta was conceived and synthesized in Taylor's lab in 1989. Lilly licensed rights to the drug from Princeton and conducted more than a decade of additional development and clinical trials before receiving FDA approval in 2004.

Alimta also has been approved as a second-line treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer, and research is under way to test the drug's effectiveness in fighting other tumors, such as small-cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer.

Two Lilly researchers, Homer Pearce and Chuan Shih, also are among this year's Heroes of Chemistry award winners. The awards program was established in 1996 by the American Chemical Society, which is the world's largest scientific society.

Taylor joined the Princeton faculty in 1954 and transferred to emeritus status in 1997. He has written more than 450 scientific papers and a number of books, holds 52 U.S. patents and is co-editor of the series "The Chemistry of Heterocyclic Compounds." He has won numerous awards and prizes, including the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, the International Award in Heterocyclic Chemistry, the Gowland Hopkins Medal, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award of the American Chemical Society and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for Invention.