Sept. 20, 2001
Vol. 21 No. 1

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    Josef Fried, Professor Emeritus in Chemisty, dies at 87

    Josef “Gus” Fried, the Louis Block Professor Emeritus in Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and a pioneer in making subtle alterations in the chemical structure of steroid hormones to produce tailor-made drugs that relieve inflammatory diseases, died Friday, Aug. 17, in Chicago. He was 87.

    “He was an outstanding, highly creative scientist who straddled both the worlds of pharmaceutical research and academic science,” said E. J. Corey, 1990 Nobel laureate in chemistry and the Sheldon Emery Research Professor in Chemistry at Harvard University. “He was one of my heroes, and I’ve always thought of him as a model scientist of great character and great human warmth.”

    Fried held nearly 200 U.S. patents, including 43 as sole inventor, of biologically active chemical compounds, many of which were developed early in his career at the Squibb Institute for Medical Research in New Brunswick, N.J.

    “He was one of the few who was able to bridge the chemical gap between the laboratory and making new compounds and the use of those compounds in medicine,” said William Elliott, professor of preventive medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago.

    Fried’s work at Squibb led to patents on a class of compounds called fluorosteroids, Elliott said. “These compounds revolutionized the treatment of many endocrine disorders,” he said.

    After joining the Chicago faculty in 1963, Fried turned his attention to the synthesis of prostaglandins. Similar to hormones, prostaglandins are highly active hormone regulators. Fried’s successful synthesis of prostaglandins contributed both to their use as drugs and in the study of their important effects on the body.

    An amateur violinist, Fried was a man of culture as well as science, said Philip Hoffmann, Professor Emeritus in Neurobiology, Pharmacology & Physiology. “He was a man of old-world culture. He was very learned in fields outside of science as well,” Hoffmann said.

    Fried was born on July 21, 1914, in Przemysl, Poland. After attending elementary school and high school in Leipzig, Germany, he attended the universities of Leipzig and Zurich. A German Jew who had fled the Nazis, he came to the United States in 1938 to study at Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1940. He remained at Columbia as an Eli Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow until 1943.

    Fried joined the Squibb Institute for Medical Research in 1944. He remained there as a research associate, department head, then director of the Division of Organic Chemistry, until he joined the Chicago faculty as a professor in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and what is now called the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research.

    He was appointed the Louis Block Professor in Biological Sciences in 1973, and he served as chairman of the Chemistry Department from 1977 to 1979. He became Professor Emeritus in 1984.

    His honors include the Knapp Memorial Lectureship at the University of Wisconsin; the Third Annual Outstanding Patent Award from the New Jersey Council for Research and Development, 1968; elected to the National Academy of Sciences, 1971; the American Chemical Society’s Medicinal Chemistry Award, in 1974; and elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1981, among others.

    His daughter, Carol Fried, Chicago, and a brother, John Fried, Atherton, Calif., survive him. His wife, Erna, died in 1986. Arrangements for a memorial service at the University are pending.