Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1120477812

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: VANE; John Robert- NOV/2004-UK
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2005 12:50:12 +0100

Sir John Vane
(Filed: 22/11/2004)
The Daily Telegraph & the,uk

Sir John Vane, who died on Friday aged 77, shared the Nobel Prize for
Medicine in 1982 for his discovery, in 1976, of prostacyclin, the
blood-vessel dilating prostaglandin that inhibits blood-clotting, and for
his earlier work on aspirin.

Vane's discoveries led to new treatments for heart and blood-vessel disease,
and to the development and introduction of a new class of life-saving drugs
to control pulmonary hypertension - the Ace inhibitors - from which tens of
thousands of people around the world have since benefitted.

John Robert Vane was born at Tardebigg, Worcestershire, on March 29 1927.
His father, the son of Russian immigrants, ran a company making portable
buildings; his mother came from a Worcestershire farming family.

John went to King Edward VI school, Edgbaston, on the outskirts of
Birmingham. When he was 12, his parents gave him a chemistry set for
Christmas. The present ignited a passion for experimentation - and also an
explosion in the Vanes' newly decorated kitchen that prompted his father to
build and equip a garden shed for John's future experiments.

From school, John went on to read Chemistry at Birmingham University, where
he was disappointed to find that experimentation was not encouraged. Asked
by the Professor of Chemistry, Maurice Stacey, what he wished to do after
graduating, Vane replied: "Anything but chemistry."

Stacey pointed his pupil in the direction of pharmacology, and although Vane
was almost completely ignorant of the subject he seized the opportunity,
presented to him by Stacey, to train under the Oxford pharmacologist
Professor Harold Burn. Vane went to work for Burn in Oxford in 1946.

Burn's laboratory was then on the way to becoming the most important centre
for pharmacological research in Britain, and the main school for training
young pharmacologists. Encouraged to experiment and never to ignore the
unusual, Vane was inspired by Burn's originality and enthusiasm.

Having obtained his BSc, Vane spent a short spell in the pharmacology
department of Sheffield University, before returning to Oxford to study for
a DPhil at the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research. Having been awarded
a Stothert Research Fellowship by the Royal Society, he completed his
doctorate in 1953.

From Oxford, Vane went to Yale University as an instructor, then Assistant
Professor, in the Department of Pharmacology, but after two years returned
to Britain to work at the graduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of
London University in the Royal College of Surgeons. He stayed at the
Insitute for 18 years, progressing from Senior Lecturer to Reader and
finally to Professor of Experimental Pharmacology.

During this period, when Vane had time for research, he developed, with
others, the cascade superfusion bioassay technique for measurement of,
dynamically and instantaneously, the release and fate of vasoactive hormones
in the circulation or in the perfusion fluid of isolated organs.

In the mid-1960s, he turned his attention to prostaglandins, and found a
link between aspirin and the prostaglandins. In 1971 Vane discovered that
aspirin blocks the action of prostaglandins, which have many functions to do
with the circulation, inflammation and control of muscular contractions.

In particular, it emerged that aspirin knocks out the prostaglandin
thromboxane in the blood platelets. Only a small dose, 75mg a day, is
necessary to prevent the blood from clotting, and so has considerable
potential for preventing such disorders as heart attacks, strokes and leg

In 1973, Vane was invited to become Group Research and Development Director
for the Wellcome Foundation. Friends advised him to decline; they said that
he would be "selling his scientific soul for a mess of commercial potage".
But he accepted the post and had no cause for regret.

He took with him to Wellcome a group of colleagues from the Royal College of
Surgeons, and this in due course expanded into a Prostaglandin Research
department under the leadership of Salvador Moncada. It was here that
prostacyclin was discovered and its pharmacology developed.

Vane was knighted in 1984, and left the Wellcome Foundation the next year.
In 1986 he became founder director of the William Harvey Research Institute,
to further research on atherosclerosis. Having built up a membership of more
than 100, he stepped down to become honorary president in 1997.

From 1986, Vane was Professor of Pharmacology and of Medicine, New York
Medical College. He held visiting professorships at King's College, London
(1976), Charing Cross Hospital Medical School (1979), Harvard University
(1979) and St Marianna University, Japan (1993).

He was General Secretary of the British Pharmacological Society from 1970 to
1973, and the author or co-author of a wealth of learned articles.

He was elected a Member of the Royal Society in 1974, and served as a
vice-president of the Society from 1985 to 1987. He was a member of several
overseas academies of medicine and science, and the recipient of
international medals, prizes and honorary degrees too numerous to list.

John Vane married, in 1948, Elizabeth Daphne Page; they had two daughters.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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