Photo of awardee

Richard W. Korsmeyer

Senior Research Fellow and Head of External Technology and Collaborations for Worldwide Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pfizer Inc.
MSChE '80, PhD '83

In recognition of his outstanding technical and business achievements, including contributions to drug delivery formulations and medical devices

Key to Richard Korsmeyer's consistently high achievement is disciplined determination. He decides daily to do the most important thing even if it is difficult.

"I'm interested in many different things," he says. "Often, the things that you find difficult ultimately make life easier if only you focus on them."

Being interested in, and adept at, many different things is a hallmark of Korsmeyer's career. As Head of External Technology and Collaborations for Pfizer's Pharmaceutical Sciences group, he oversees cross-departmental teams that manage all the chemistry, manufacturing and controls aspects of licenses, acquisitions, collaborations and divestitures. In addition, he works with technology companies and universities to innovate new means of pharmaceutical development.

He hesitates when asked what he would consider his greatest achievement. "I struggle with that one. I don't have any great achievements; I think I'm good at pulling the pieces together, and there are a lot of pieces.

"If you look at everything that goes into the design of a drug product, you begin with fundamental chemistry and cover everything needed to convert it into an actual product.

"We have to design a synthesis, or bioprocess, to make the therapeutic molecule. We look at transport phenomena that affect how the body absorbs and distributes the drug. How should it be delivered? What's the commercial process for manufacturing? What controls are needed? How will it be packaged? Many people are responsible for those things. I work continually to optimize how all the pieces are pulled together."

Korsmeyer is well known for the "Korsmeyer Equation," a simple tool for designing drug-delivery products, and for his co-invention of Zmax™, a commercial product that delivers a full course of azithromycin, an antibiotic, in a single oral dose. This was among accomplishments cited in his election to the National Academy of Engineering.

Having studied chemistry at Vanderbilt University before coming to Purdue, Korsmeyer says he would have studied engineering as an undergraduate, had he known then how much he would love it.

"When I was looking for grad schools, I already had a job as a chemist. I knew that I needed to look into chemical engineering because the job opportunities seemed much better. So while I was looking at Purdue, MIT and Georgia Tech, I asked an executive at a national lab about Purdue. He said, 'Those Purdue engineers really know something.'" That clinched his decision, and he says many good faculty later reaffirmed it. He cites Nicholas Peppas, former Showalter Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, in particular.

"When I met Prof. Peppas, he talked about polymer science, which interested me. But he also talked about applying it to controlled drug delivery, which was a new concept to me then, and it sounded just right to me as a research topic. It was a great partnership.

"Ultimately, I took the path I took because of my education at Purdue."

Career Highlights

2010-present Senior Research Fellow and Head of External Technology and Collaborations for PTx Pharmaceutical Sciences, Worldwide R&D, Pfizer Inc., Groton, Conn.
2005–2010 Global Head of Licensing, Worldwide Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pfizer Inc.
1996-2005 Director of Technology Assessment, Pharmaceutical R&D, Pfizer Global Research and Development
1994-1996 Manager of Oral Controlled Release, Central Research, Pfizer Inc.
1986-1990 Senior Research Scientist, Central Research, Pfizer Inc.
1983-1986 Senior R&D Engineer, Corporate Research, The BFGoodrich Co., Brecksville, Ohio
1983 PhD, Purdue University
1980 MSChE, Purdue University
1977 BA Chemistry, Vanderbilt University