Each year on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day serves as “an opportunity [...] to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care around the world.” At the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we are proud to recognize one of the many inspiring individuals who have contributed to the treatment of AIDS patients: Hall of Fame Inductee Ken Richardson.
Read on to learn how Richardson made one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of antifungal research and developed the antifungal drug fluconazole, making a difference for people around the world, including many patients diagnosed with AIDS.
Richardson was born in the British Midlands near Nottingham. At just 16, he left school to become a laboratory assistant. By attending evening classes, he earned a degree in chemistry from Trent Polytechnic in 1965. He then entered full-time study to earn a doctorate from the University of Nottingham in 1968.
After working with Nobel laureate chemist R.B. Woodward at Harvard University, Richardson became a research scientist for Pfizer Inc. At the company’s Sandwich, England, labs, he led the research team that discovered fluconazole in 1981.
Commercialized as Diflucan®, fluconazole became the world's leading antifungal drug for human use. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration recognized the immense importance of fluconazole and gave it fast-track treatment, approving it for use in just nine months.
A Life-Saving Innovator
Fluconazole has saved the lives of millions around the world. It is used to treat not only AIDS patients but also transplant recipients, burn survivors, chemotherapy patients and others with weakened immune systems, which can make them targets of life-threatening fungal diseases.
“I always believed that if I worked hard and was as creative as possible, one day I would discover a breakthrough drug that would be important for mankind,” Richardson said. “Millions of people have received this drug. To say I’m proud is an understatement.”
Richardson has received many awards and honors for his discovery, including the UK Society for Drug Research Award for Drug Discovery and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America Discoverers Award. He retired from Pfizer in 1997, and that same year, he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Meet More Influential Inventors
Since 1973, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has honored more than 600 of the world’s greatest creators and innovators. To discover more of the stories behind their groundbreaking inventions, visit our website.