Hans-Jürgen Hess received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1957, working with Professor Hans Herloff Inhoffen at the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany. After postdoctoral work with Professor Randolph T. Major at the University of Virginia and Professor E.J. Corey at the University of Illinois, he joined Pfizer’s Medical Research Laboratories in Groton, Connecticut, as a Research Chemist in 1959. Hans Hess has a distinguished record in drug discovery and development. He was responsible for all Pfizer Medicinal Chemistry Research and affiliated functions in the US and Japan during a period of steady internal growth and productivity.
In 1963, he conceived and implemented a program for the discovery of a peripherally acting antihypertensive agent, work that culminated in the discovery of prazosin (Minipress®). At the time of its US introduction in 1976, Minipress® was a major advance in the treatment of mild to moderate hypertension and was mechanistically distinguished from any other antihypertensive agent. As a selective α1-adrenergic blocker, it was free of unfavorable effects on blood lipid profiles of other types of antihypertensive drugs in use. In 1988, Minipress® ranked third in the worldwide antihypertensive market. The drug was also shown effective in the treatment of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), and is the prototype of a class of structural analogs (doxazosin, terazosin, alfuzosin) developed and marketed for this indication. Prazosin became the laboratory standard in adrenergic receptor research and was the key to the α1-subclassification of adrenergic receptors. In 1991, Hans Hess received the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA) Discovery Award for the discovery of prazosin.
Hans Hess’s research interests and expertise range over a wide area of medicinal chemistry. He led the discovery efforts resulting in pirbuterol (Maxair®), a tissue selective ß-adrenergic agonist bronchodilator, sulprostone (Nalador®), a tissue selective prostaglandin analog for obstetric and gynecological uses, and the first potent, non-peptidic neurokinin-1 (substance P) antagonist. In parallel with his responsibilities in the US, he established in 1983 fully integrated Pfizer drug discovery operations in Japan, involving medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, molecular biology, drug metabolism, state-of-the-art microbial natural product screening and structure determination, and development functions. Building on the experience of automating microbial natural product screening in Japan, he subsequently established high throughput screening (HTS) of chemical compound libraries in receptor, enzyme, and cellular assays, Pfizer being one of the first companies in the industry implementing this technology for lead discovery. Hans Hess’s achievements have been chronicled in about 100 issued US patents and 70 publications and abstracts.
Throughout his scientific career, Hans has been actively involved in professional activities contributing to the advancement of Medicinal Chemistry in numerous ways. For 5 years, from 1979-1983, he was Editor-in-Chief of “Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry”. He was Chairman of the Medicinal Chemistry Gordon Research Conference in 1986, and served on Awards Nominating and Long-Range Planning Committees of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry.
Hans Hess retired from Pfizer in 1996 after more than 36 years involvement in drug research. Since then he has been a member of Scientific Advisory Boards and serving as a consultant of a number of pharmaceutical companies.