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PhRMA honours Merck scientists

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has announced that it will present its 2011 Discoverers Award to two Merck scientists who were behind the discovery of the Januvia diabetes pill

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has announced that it will present its 2011 Discoverers Award, which the trade group calls its "highest honour", to two Merck scientists who were behind the discovery of the company's Januvia diabetes pill.

The award to the researchers, Nancy A Thornberry and Ann E Weber, marks the first time in the prize's 24-year history that the honour has gone solely to female scientists, although women have been part of winning teams in the past.

Januvia, a once-daily pill that helps patients with type 2 diabetes control glucose, was the first in a new class of diabetes drugs which enhance the body's mechanisms for regulating blood sugar.

It beat rivals to market by winning US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2006 and EU approval in March 2007 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in combination with either metformin or, in certain patients, with a PPAR agonist (ie thiazolidinedione) when diet and exercise plus either agent do not provide adequate glycaemic control.

Thornberry has been with Merck since 1979 and currently serves as senior vice president and franchise head of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Merck's Research Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey.

Weber, who joined the company in 1987, serves as vice president and Rahway site lead for Discovery Chemistry at Merck Research Laboratories.

The four physicians who led Januvia's multinational phase III clinical trial programme will be honoured with PhRMA's Clinical Trial Exceptional Service Award. Those doctors, who oversaw trials that enroled thousands of patients, are Keith D Kaufman, Gary A Herman, John Amatruda, and Peter Stein.

15th April 2011

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