November 25, 1996
Media Contact: Michael Purdy
Phone: (410) 955-8725
A 1951 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (SOM) alumnus who was involved in two breakthroughs in glaucoma treatment has given Hopkins $2 million to create an endowed basic science professorship.
The gift from Thomas Maren, M.D., will be used to create the Marshall-Maren chair in pharmacology, named for Maren and his mentor at Hopkins, E.K. Marshall, who held basic science chairs in the medical school from 1921 to 1955 and "had enormous influence on the institution," according to Maren.
Maren has had a long and varied career that carried him from graduate school in the humanities to an M.D. program at Hopkins, from lucrative drug development for corporate pharmaceutical giants to a career in academic science.
After graduating from Hopkins, Maren went to work at American Cyanamid Co. in the 1950s, where he was instrumental in the development of Diamox, a drug that controls the secretion of bodily fluids. Cyanamid initially marketed Diamox as a treatment for congestive heart failure, but it soon became the drug of choice for glaucoma treatment.
Moving on to the University of Florida's new School of Medicine as its first professor of pharmacology, Maren began a 40-year research career focused on carbonic anhydrase, the enzyme blocked by Diamox. He showed that carbonic anhydrase helps the body create bicarbonate ions and that passage of these ions through membranes was a key step in the creation of fluids in several areas of the body, including the eyes, the brain and the pancreas. The enzyme also has a key role in respiration.
Insights from his studies of carbonic anhydrase later helped him work with Merck to develop a new treatment for glaucoma: Trusopt, a topical inhibitor, which eliminated the difficult side effects of the previous drug and is now the third most-prescribed glaucoma drug after less than two years on the market.
Maren's recent gift to Hopkins will allow the School of Medicine to set up an endowment fund for the director of the Department of Pharmacology. Endowed faculty appointments help scientists continue their research when grant awards shrink and allow them to pursue promising but non-traditional ideas.
Note to editors: Photographs and a more extensive profile of Maren are available. If you would like to receive these, please contact Michael Purdy at 410-955-8725.