Alimta, one of the few successful mesothelioma drugs, has its inventor backing a new venture, a chemistry research fund.
The $1 million Edward and Virginia Taylor research fund for Hamilton College was established for student and faculty research in chemistry. Beginning in the summer of 2009, the fund will assist students at the school to work with the staff to further their study of organic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and other subdivisions. Citing the start of the program in the summer, Taylor said, “…summer programs are especially great for stimulating a student’s interest.” This philanthropist and researcher did not enter college with the intention of earning a chemistry degree. His first year at Hamilton College in 1942, he flipped a coin. Fate landed the coin on the chemistry side, with which Taylor became infatuated as he studied it. In an address to the students at Hamilton, Taylor alluded to his taking a chance on chemistry: “The reason you are going to a liberal arts institution is to take advantage of the variety it offers. Don’t base your course selection on your prior limited experience. Spread your wings. Experiment!
Other vistas will open if you have an open mind.” Taylor later went on to earn his PhD from Cornell where he met his wife of 62 years, Virginia. He became a chemistry researcher when looking for topics for his doctorate. His focus became a compound found in the human liver (now known as folic acid) that was also necessary for the growth of several other organisms. A slight alteration of that liver compound was found to have antibacterial properties. It also was later shown to have success in treating children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but besides attacking cancer cells, it also harmed healthy cells. Taylor took another look at the altered form of folic acid to see if he could make it safer for healthy cells while still cause damage to cancer cells. He was successful in his attempts, but he needed help to effectively manufacture the compound in a drug form. The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. worked with Taylor to create a drug from his compound to treat cancer. Following 12 years of work, Alimta was created. This drug has proven to be extremely successful in treating many forms of cancer, and it has been approved in 92 nations for lung cancer. It is also the only approved mesothelioma drug in the United States. Testing is currently underway to approve the drug for other forms of cancer. Taylor hopes that through his research fund he can inspire today’s students to do what he did. It is highly possible that one of these young chemistry students could discover a drug to save lives in the future.