Roche scientist honored with 2009 Meienhofer Award for excellence in peptide chemistry

Waleed Danho, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Leader at Roche was honored last week as the 2009 recipient of the Meienhofer Award for excellence in peptide chemistry at the international peptide symposium, RCCPS (http://www.rochecolorado.com/PeptideSymp09/). Hosted by Roche Colorado, the company's peptide manufacturing facility in Boulder, RCCPS is the only global conference exclusively dedicated to peptides. For Danho, who has a world-wide reputation as a leader and innovator in the field of peptide chemistry and the application of peptide chemistry to drug discovery, this was the second prestigious award he garnered this year.

"Each year, the world's leading peptide scientists honor one of their own at RCCPS for a lifetime of outstanding achievement," said the symposium's co-chair, Ralph Di Libero. "The selection of Waleed as the 2009 Meienhofer Award recipient is particularly compelling as it speaks volumes to the central role that Roche is playing, through all stages of drug development, at demonstrating the viability of synthetic peptide therapeutics."

This theme was echoed by Danho. "There were many who doubted the viability of synthetic peptides, relegating promising medicinal compounds to the shelf. Roche kept its faith in my vision for the future of peptides and their faith is beginning to bear fruit, with many synthetic peptides now providing meaningful health benefits and many more in the pipeline."

"Of course," concluded Danho, "I accept this tribute with due respect for my colleagues in the peptide field who helped advance the science to its present place of influence in the pharmaceutical industry. That is what makes the Meienhofer Award, receiving it as I did during this premier gathering of peptide scientists, such a meaningful tribute."

Danho joined Roche in 1980 following a well-established career as a noted peptide chemist. He earned his doctorate in 1967 at the prestigious RWTH University of Aachen in Germany where his research led to the first crystalline semi-synthetic insulin. Through his subsequent study of the pancreatic and pituitary hormones of camels, Danho helped discover that lipotropin is a pro-hormone of endorphin.

"I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Waleed to receive the Meienhofer Award," said Nader Fotouhi, Ph.D., Vice President for Discovery Chemistry at Roche in Nutley, New Jersey. Dr. Fotouhi noted that, "Waleed has built on the legacy that Dr. Meienhofer started at Roche and has taken it to a significantly higher level. His drive, enthusiasm, honesty, and experience have been critical to the revival of peptides as a therapeutic modality at Roche."

Applying his knowledge of peptides to his work at Roche, Danho fully dedicated himself to demonstrating the therapeutic potential of peptides and their proficiency as a biological proof of concept tool in drug discovery. Danho's research helped to prove that peptides can selectively interact with specific biologic targets to elicit particular effects. The results of his findings, which are documented in over 200 publications, 16 patents and myriad presentations, laid the groundwork for a number of potential new medicinal therapies, including a promising diabetes treatment.

The list of Danho's accomplishments while at Roche is long, but among the most significant achievements is the investigation of cholecystokinin involvement as a systematic approach to discovering peptide mimetics and enriching the Roche intellectual portfolio on peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). However, he is probably best recognized for his seminal work in male erectile dysfunction (ED). While originally evaluating metanocortin-4 (MC-4) receptor antagonist in the treatment of obesity, Danho's research group recognized that MC-4 had an effect on erectile function, leading to the discovery of a potent and selective peptide that has entered clinical trials.

In recognition of his prestigious career, Danho was honored as a 2009 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Jersey Section of the American Chemical Society in May (http://www.rocheusa.com/newsroom/current/2009/pr2009052701.html).

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