Veterinarian honored with Lasker Award for propofol discovery

November 1, 2018

Dr. John B. Glen awarded coveted prize in medicine for discovery.

John B. Glen, PhD, MRCVC, DVA, FRCA, was awarded the Lasker Award for his discovery of the drug propofol. Photo courtesy of Ellen Jaffe, Lasker Foundation

The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award was presented to veterinarian Dr. John B. Glen, who discovered and developed the drug propofol, the Lasker Foundation website reports.

In 1972, Dr. Glen joined Imperial Chemistry Industries (which later became AstraZeneca) to help find short-acting intravenous anesthetics. Dr. Glen and his team at ICI aimed to find an anesthetic that did not build up in the body through repeated use, which could cause patients to remain unconscious long after surgery, according to the foundation.

Dr. Glen and his team discovered that propofol could sedate mice in four to five minutes-the same time as the leading anesthetic at the time, thiopentone-but recovery happened much more quickly and with minimal side effects.

In 1986, the drug received regulatory approval in the United Kingdom, followed by FDA approval in 1989. Now, propofol is approved for use in 90 countries and is the gold standard in intravenous anesthetic induction, the foundation states, making surgery and medical tests more comfortable for people around the world.