Bruce Roth 2005
Bruce D. Roth
PhD 1981, Organic Chemistry
Bruce Roth (PhD ’81 organic chemistry) of Plymouth, Michigan, has made many significant discoveries in a stellar research career that spans 22 years, but one stands out more than the others. Roth invented atorvastatin, better known as Lipitor, which has become the largest-selling drug in pharmaceutical history. More important than its sales records—more than $10 billion in 2004 for Pfizer—is the fact that Lipitor is used by 45 million people throughout the world to lower cholesterol levels, improve their quality of life and significantly reduce the risk of life-threatening cardiovascular conditions and diseases.
Roth came to Iowa State as a doctoral student after earning his bachelor’s degree at St. Joseph’s College, Philadelphia, in 1976. His major professor at Iowa State was George Kraus, professor of chemistry and University Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences. After earning his doctorate, he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester, then joined Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, a division of Warner-Lambert Company, as a scientist in the chemistry department in 1982. He was promoted to senior scientist in 1984, research associate in 1986, senior research associate in 1988, section director in 1990, director of atherosclerosis and exploratory chemistry in 1992, and senior director of atherosclerosis and inflammation chemistry in 1993. He was appointed vice president of chemistry just prior to the merger between Warner-Lambert and Pfizer in 2000 and remains in that role as a part of Pfizer Global Research and Development.
Roth first synthesized atorvastatin in 1985. For the discovery, he received the 1997 Warner-Lambert Chairman’s Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award, the 1999 Inventor of the Year Award from the New York Intellectual Property Law Association, the 2003 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention and the 2003 Gustavus J. Esselen Award for chemistry in the public interest.
Roth’s contributions go far beyond Lipitor. He is the inventor or co-inventor of 42 patents and the author or co-author of 48 manuscripts, 35 published abstracts and eight book chapters. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Michigan.
He and his wife, Michelle, have four children: David, Sarah, Rebecca and Aaron.