Pedro Cuatrecasas to receive honorary degree from U-M

October 12, 2015

Pedro Cuatrecasas, M.D.

A renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry and co-chair of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute Scientific Advisory Board is scheduled to receive a honorary degree at Winter Commencement 2015 on the Ann Arbor campus. 

Pedro Cuatrecasas, M.D., will receive a Doctor of Science as one of four honorees. The degrees are pending approval by the Board of Regents at its meeting Thursday.

Cuatrecasas, a biochemist and pharmaceutical executive, is one of the 20th century's pre-eminent life scientists and a renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry and academe, including at U-M, where he co-chairs the Life Sciences Institute Scientific Advisory Board.

He developed affinity chromatography, a technique used in separating and purifying complex mixtures for biochemical and medicinal purposes, and did seminal work on hormone receptors, enhancing understanding of cell growth regulation and hormonal regulation of physiological processes.

Born in Madrid, Cuatrecasas and his family fled to France and then South America during the Spanish Civil War. He immigrated to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen in 1956. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1958) from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and a Doctor of Medicine degree (1962) from Washington University School of Medicine.

He completed an internal medicine internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and conducted research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he developed affinity chromatography, for which he and Meir Wilchek received the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 1987.

As a professor of pharmacology and internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1970-75, he did pioneering studies on the insulin receptor, which provided the framework for research in cancer biology, endocrinology, and neurobiology.

Cuatrecasas served as vice president of research and development at Burroughs Wellcome Co. from 1975-86, senior vice president of research and development and director of Glaxo Inc. from 1986-89, vice president of Warner-Lambert Co., and president of the Pharmaceutical Research Division of Parke-Davis Co. from 1989-97. He currently is an adjunct professor of pharmacology and medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Cuatrecasas played a crucial role in the discovery, development and regulatory approval of more than 40 medicines to treat Alzheimer's disease, bacterial infections, cancer, depression, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and HIV/AIDS. He holds seven patents and has authored more than 400 publications.

While at Parke-Davis, he served as an adjunct professor at U-M and encouraged collaboration between other Parke-Davis and U-M scientists. He also created Michigan's first Parke-Davis/Warner Lambert Professorships and supported the University Musical Society.

He helped found and served as board chair of the Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology, a model for other scientific colloquia. Among many honors, he has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Society of Clinical Investigation, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and is a Royal Society of Medicine fellow.

He received the John Jacob Abel Award in Pharmacology, Goodman and Gilman Award in Receptor Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award, the Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Alumnus Award, City of Medicine Award, and North Carolina Governor's Medal Award in Science.