Two plays by Federico Garcia Lorca - Blood Wedding at the BU Theatre Studio 210 through October 13, and Yerma at SFA's Studio 104 through October 14

Vol. V No. 9   ·   12 October 2001


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Alumni profile
Carlos Samour: a pioneer in the field of polymer chemistry

By Brian Fitzgerald

In the late 1980s, Carlos Samour, as chairman of MacroChem Corporation, focused on a technology that he felt had great promise: transdermal drug delivery.

  BU Donor Carlos Samour (GRS'50). Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

His hunch was right -- researchers now recognize that the skin is an excellent delivery route for drugs. And SEPA, a patented drug-absorption agent whose development he oversaw, has proved a valuable alternative to oral and intravenous drug application.

MacroChem, of Woburn, Mass., now concentrates its research on the areas of sexual dysfunction, dermatological conditions, pain management, and hormone replacement therapy. "We are anxiously awaiting the results of several clinical studies on the transdermal delivery of drugs using SEPA technology," says Samour (GRS'50), who last year returned to the retirement he had abandoned in 1982 to start MacroChem.

In the mid-1980s, one of Samour's first successes in pharmaceutical research was the development of a more effective cement that holds brace brackets against teeth. For years, the dental profession had been concerned about mottling patterns on the teeth of children who wore braces -- the traditional cement being used was interacting with the fluoride added to city water supplies. Samour patented and obtained FDA approval to market bracket cement containing fluoride, which stopped the blotching patterns on the teeth's enamel.

Samour's next important patent was SEPA (soft enhancement of percutaneous absorption), which is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and delivers drugs into the bloodstream at a constant rate -- bypassing the stomach and the liver, where irritation and problems of degradation can occur.

"One of the MacroChem drugs that uses SEPA is Topiglan, for the treatment of impotence in men," says Samour. "It is being tested clinically with good results so far." Impotence affects more than 30 million men in the United States, and most cases are caused by atherosclerosis or diabetes, which restrict blood flow to the penis. The majority of the oral drugs currently marketed or under development to treat it are vasodilators -- compounds that attempt to dilate disease-constricted penile blood vessels. However, patients with a history of vascular disease of the heart or brain may be at risk if the anti-impotence vasodilators affect arteries and veins elsewhere in the body, or if they intensify the effects of nitrate-containing drugs used to treat symptoms of heart disease.

"Drugs taken orally, such as Viagra, are distributed throughout the body," says Samour. "But Topiglan is put on the penis and acts almost exclusively on penile blood vessels. It doesn't interact with the systemic effects of nitrate drugs."

In a Phase 2 trial at the Boston University School of Medicine, Topiglan outperformed a placebo six to one in patients with moderate to severe vascular-caused impotence. Topiglan is now in a Phase 3 protocol trial, the last phase of drug development before FDA review.

In appreciation for his education at BU, where he earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, Samour recently donated more than half a million dollars in MacroChem stock to the Samour Family Trust Fund, which he established in 1986 to enhance relationships among researchers at the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the School of Medicine, and to improve University-industry relations.

Samour also donated $10,000 in MacroChem stock to the new Arts and Sciences Endowment Fund, whose income will support faculty professorships, fellowships for graduate students, and undergraduate programs. "I'm very excited about the fund," Samour says. "The Dean's Advisory Council for the Arts and Sciences enthusiastically supported this idea, and a matching gift program has been created for this important new venture."

Samour, who received an Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to Alma Mater in 1994, was born in El Salvador in 1920. In 1942 he received his B.A. and in 1944 his M.A. in chemistry from American University of Beirut. He received his M.S. in organic chemistry from MIT in 1947. After earning his Ph.D. from GRS in 1950, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Boston University until 1952. He worked as a research chemist for the Kendall Company for five years, and was then appointed director of its Theodore Clark Laboratory. In 1973, he was promoted to director of the company's corporate Lexington Research Laboratory. Samour formed MacroChem in 1982.


12 October 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations