Friday 9 July 2004
Public Orator, Professor
Ray Jones presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony
held on Friday 9 July 2004 at 10.30am.
Vice-Chancellor, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted
to introduce John Dixon, Vice-President of Discovery at our Loughborough
neighbours AstraZeneca Charnwood, honoured today for outstanding
contributions to Medical Science.
A native of Cumbria,
John studied at University of Leeds, where he learnt the excitement
of Organic Chemistry, completing a PhD in organic synthesis. During
this time he married Pam. He added to his experience as a Postdoctoral
Fellow in Ottowa, working on reactive intermediates, and at University
of Liverpool working in heterocyclic chemistry. This portfolio
equipped him perfectly for the pharmaceutical industry, which
he entered in 1972 as a Medicinal Chemist with Fisons Pharmaceuticals
When just 30 years
old, John was surprised to be promoted to Head of Medicinal Chemistry,
a position he held for 20 years while gathering additional responsibilities
and eventually becoming Director of Chemistry. At first he carried
on bench work whilst running the department, and he has always
seen experimental work as the one unambiguous demonstration of
value. Today’s graduates will do well to remember the importance
of practical skills in science!
Within a company that
was overall in decline, John built up a strong unit with an enviable
reputation for novel research in difficult areas, a major achievement
that paved the way for later developments in Loughborough. He
personally invented one cardiovascular drug now on the market,
and oversaw the discovery of another marketed drug for treating
asthma. Many other compounds emerged from the cardiovascular,
respiratory, inflammation and gastrointestinal research areas,
and are progressing towards becoming marketed drugs in due course.
John put enormous effort into attracting top-class chemists to
join Fisons rather than more well-known organisations. He persuaded
Fisons to make a massive investment in new labs, opened in 1993
and still a leading example of modern lab design. The Loughborough
unit was bought in 1995 by Astra, who expressed their confidence
with major investment. John became Vice-President of Research
in the new Astra Charnwood, and Vice-President of Discovery when
merger with Zeneca in 1999 created AstraZeneca Charnwood, part
of one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
has been to achieve investment while never losing track of the
basic science. It is important to him that research in Loughborough
continues to be respected. He can be proud of his contribution
to the understanding of drug-like properties by integration of
Medicinal Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Drug Metabolism in
a way now recognised around the industry. He is a great defender
of science. He has had a personal involvement with several UK
universities, both local and elsewhere, and Charnwood scientists
have interactions and collaborations with many UK universities.
His contribution to chemical employment in the UK, in particular
in the East Midlands, was recognised by The Royal Society of Chemistry
with a special award as ‘a chemist and as an employer of
Chancellor, I have
the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, Dr
John Dixon for the degree of DOCTOR OF SCIENCE honoris causa.