Dr. Arnold Schwartz: Cincinnati, USA
Arnold Schwartz, PhD, MD (hc), D.Sc, (hc), R.Ph, the 2016 Drake Awardee, and Distinguished University Research Professor awarded in 1988, specialty is a team effort approach to developing new drugs used to treat heart dysfunctions. Utilizing many disciplines, he initially established the mechanism of action of digitalis, known as the oldest drug used to treat heart failure. Schwartz is in the top 300 most cited authors to date.
Schwartz graduated from Abraham Lincoln HS in Brooklyn in 1946. Secondary education in New York especially this public HS, was the home for mostly children of immigrants. The NY Public School system in those days was the best in the US. Many later received Noble prizes in various fields attended ALHS. Notable were Arthur Kornberg and Maurice Berg.
Schwartz was accepted to the prestigious Chemical Engineering program in City College of NY, and after 2 years realized that medicinal chemistry was his calling to develop drugs. He transferred to and graduated from the (now named) Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy, cum laude, in 1951. Schwartz enlisted in the USAF as a Registered Pharmacist serving first at Stewart AFB and then in Suwan, Korea as Chief Pharmacist. He did not take an offer to attend medical school, free, because his love of Pharmacy superseded any patient care profession. After his Air Force experiences, he took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights and attended OSU receiving a M.Sc. in Pharmacy-Pharmacology. Schwartz tried to enter the doctoral program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, but the Chair, Al Gilman rejected him because “he was too old…”27).
Robert F. Furchgott (later the recipient of the Nobel for his discovery of the gaseous transmitter NO) accepted Arnie to his new department of Pharmacology at the State University College of Medicine, in Brooklyn. This is where a team approach became the vogue. Schwartz’s PhD embraced the subject of mitochondria in heart failure. Schwartz developed what is now known as TAC: Thoracic ascending aorta constriction, in the guinea pig and discovered that Site 3 of the electron transport chain was defective. This was published in an early issue of Circulation Research. Later this defect in the cytochrome oxidase site (III) was recognized as the pore system involved in apoptosis.
After graduating in 1961, Schwartz was awarded a USPHS Postdoctoral Award to study ions in brain slices under the tutelage of Henry McIlwain (Inventor of the McIlwain Chopper) in the department of Biochemistry, at the Maudsley Hospital, University of London. This hospital housed patients referred to as insane. Recruitment of the Berlin-born Hans Eysenck the controversial behavior scientist who believed that drug treatment such as the use of chlorpromazine could function along with behavior therapy, in a symbiotic way so patients could be released in society. Arnie had lunch with him daily, to hear of his exploits. The work of Schwartz on normal and diseased brain slices, brought into play the newly discovered (J.C. Skou, Denmark) Na, K-ATPase. Schwartz traveled to Aarhus with his wife and 2 year old daughter to work with Skou on the Na, K-ATPase isolation from heart. This enzyme was specifically inhibited by digitalis drugs. Schwartz’s father died suddenly of a heart attack, and Arnie decided to devote his career to the heart. While maintaining a Visiting Professorship at the Royal Free Hospital Pharmacology department under Eleanor Zaimis (discovered hexamethonium), Arnie was recruited to the newly named Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in the department of Pharmacology headed by the cancer researcher Harris Busch. Rising swiftly through the ranks. Professor Schwartz was approached by the world famous cardiac surgeon Michael E. Debakey, President of BCM, to establish a new Department called Cell Biophysics located solely in the Brown-Fondren Hospital next to the OR suites. The large budget allowed recruitment of superb faculty and graduate students mostly from Rice University, where Schwartz was an adjunct Professor of Chemistry.
When the “Whole Heart Transplant” season began, Schwartz and his team received the diseased heart and a piece of the transplanted heart and carried out ground breaking studies on the mechanism of biochemical control of calcium in all of the systems that regulate the heart Excitation-Contraction-Relaxation coupling. Many papers were published, prizes awarded and the first US-USSR trip arranged by Debakey to visit many of the heart laboratories in the USSR.
The OR furnished human heart tissue almost every day and frequently at night and in the early morning hours. Arnie appeared in the OR, with ice bucket, so often that the famous writer Thomas Thompson referred to Arnie as the “Ghoul from School” a phrase that caught the attention of Debakey and his associates and the Chair of all the departments.
Arnie loved to communicate and his lectures were loved by the small class of medical students. This continued throughout his long career. He has won several golden apple awards.
In 1977, the late Dr. Stanley Troup Provost and Sr. VP of UC visited me in Houston to learn how to develop a department with a team effort approach to CV sciences. He and the late Robert Daniels, Dean of the UC College of Medicine recruited me and 17 faculty and staff to Cincinnati to build a CV Program. In one year we received a Program Project Grant (PPG), encompassing not only our new department but many of the existing faculty in other departments and disciplines. We also were successful in establishing a NHLBI Training Grant (TG), with predoc and postdoc and medical and surgical fellows, benefitting from superb faculty and their laboratories. Individual grants and MERIT awards were also transferred from Houston. The PPG lasted 30 years and the TG 36 years, both among the longest continuously funded team effort grants in the NIH.
Schwartz has authored over 500 peer reviewed papers in his long career. He chaired the first Gordon Conference on digitalis. In distinguishing himself in molecular and biochemical aspects of excitation-contraction-relaxing coupling, he became a worldwide expert in the role of calcium and in the Na, K-ATPase. Together with Jerry Lingrel and Gary Shull, the subunits of the Na, K-ATPase was cloned at the University of Cincinnati.
Schwartz and his research team were the first to identify the location of the voltage dependent calcium channel (L-VDCC) in the human heart, and together with colleagues at the Salk Institute (SIBIA), cloned the highly complex L-VDCC which consisted of what is known as the alpha 1 and alpha 2 subunits. It soon became obvious that a new class of drugs, the calcium channel blockers (CCB) acted by binding to the alpha 1 subunit. Schwartz collaborated with Tanabe and with Pfizer and chose the lead compounds with the help of their medicinal chemists. He is credited with developing the drugs DILTIAZEM and AMLODIPINE, and presented at the FDA who approved. Diltiazem, as well as the dihydropyridines and verapamil, are still used. The CCB’s, after 50 years, have saved countless lives and relieved a number of disease cardiac conditions.
In his long career, Arnie has won many awards: A D.Sc. received in 1988 from the Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy; an honorary M.D. degree from the Albert Szent-Gyorgy College of Medicine in 2006; The Samuel Kaplan, MD Visionary Award from the AHA; The Ohio Affiliate AHA Research Merit Award; the Otto Krayer Distinguished Award in Pharmacology, in 1988 from ASPET; The Ariens Receptor Award from the Dutch Pharmacological Society for Receptor Pharmacology in 1994; the Distinguished Investigator Award, awarded in 1995 from the American College of Clinical Pharmacology; the Chauncey Depew Leake Pharmacology Award in 2009 from OSU; The final four AHA Distinguished Scientist Research Award, in 2010; and the Most Dramatic Scientist Award, known as the ARNIE award from the AHA Basic CV Council, in 2012.
Despite the research and the honors, his first love is teaching medical students. He hopes someday soon that he will be asked to reenter the teaching program at the University of Cincinnati.