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Dr. Philip Needleman, Internationally-Renowned Scientist and Pharmacologist, to Deliver Graduation Address to University of Maryland School of Medicine's 206th Graduating Class

May 13, 2015

Philip Needleman, PhD

Award-Winning Discoverer of Celebrex and Alumnus of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Has Served as Medical School Professor, Pharmaceutical Leader, Advisor and Expert in Inflammation and Arthritis

The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) and Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, will welcome Philip Needleman, PhD, as the graduation speaker for this year’s graduating class. The UM SOM graduation ceremony will take place at 10 am on May 14, 2015 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Dr. Needleman is best known for his breakthrough discovery of Celebrex, the blockbuster anti-inflammatory medicine that is still widely used. He served for many years in academia as a research scientist and professor at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently a member of the UM SOM’s distinguished Scientific Advisory Council for the School’s Festival of Science, an annual event where leading scientists gather to discuss a key area of scientific research and its impact on critical health issues.

“Dr. Needleman is an ideal choice for our graduation speaker this year. He represents the incredible achievements that science and medicine can make together to advance knowledge, and develop treatments that help improve people’s lives,” said Dean Reece, who is Vice President of Medical Affairs for the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor as well as Dean of the School of Medicine. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Needleman currently engaged with the School of Medicine as a valued member of the SOM Scientific Advisory Council. Just as our department chairs and faculty benefit from his counsel and advice on our research mission, the graduates of the Class of 2015 will benefit from his wisdom and tremendous career as a research scientist and executive.”

The UM SOM graduating class of 2015 has 157 members, 35 of whom will participate in residency programs within the state of Maryland. Forty percent of the class will specialize in either pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine—fields that have some of the highest needs for new practitioners.

Dr. Needleman is a former Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Washington University Board of Trustees, the St. Louis Science Center, the Plant and Life Sciences Coalition, the Board of Trustees of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and Research Advisor to the President at Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

He received his BSc in pharmacy and MSc in pharmacology from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and his PhD in pharmacology from the UM SOM. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, where he joined the faculty in 1967, and later became Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology from 1976 to 1989. In 1989 he became senior vice president of Monsanto. In 1993 he became president of Searle Research and Development. He served as senior executive vice president and chief scientist of Pharmacia from 2000 to 2003.

Dr. Needleman’s research has focused on two main areas. His studies of the regulation of vascular, cardiac, and renal function led to the discovery of the mechanism of organic nitrate tolerance, the first peptide angiotensin antagonists, and the atrial natriuretic factor (the hormone by which the heart communicates with the kidney). His second area of research was on the role of prostaglandins in arthritis, an area in which he made multiple contributions, culminating in the discovery and development of Cox-2 inhibitors, a class of medications that treats pain and inflammation in arthritis and other conditions. His work at Monsanto/Searle resulted in the 1998 FDA approval of Celebrex.

He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1987, and chaired the NAS Pharmacology-Physiology section from 2001 to 2004. He currently serves as a member of the NAS Division of Earth and Life Sciences Committee. In addition, he helped create the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Israel.

Over his career, Dr. Needleman has garnered numerous honors, including the Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association in 1988 and the Industrial Research Institute Medal in 2001.

Previous graduation speakers at the UM SOM have included Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Institute of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg and Neil Baer, executive producer of the television show ER.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Medicine, chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States, continues today as a leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland, and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists, plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S.A., with top-tier faculty and programs in vaccine development, cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the U.S.A., but also has a global presence, with research and treatment facilities in more than 35 countries around the world.


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