Ferid Murad (September 14, 1936 – September 4, 2023) was a remarkable American physician and pharmacologist who left an indelible mark on the world of science. He is best known for his groundbreaking work that led to a deeper understanding of how certain drugs function in the human body. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, he was honored with the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Ferid Murad was born in the charming town of Whiting, Indiana, on September 14, 1936. His parents, Henrietta Josephine Bowman and Xhabir Murat Ejupi, hailed from Alton, Illinois, and Gostivar in present-day North Macedonia, respectively. Interestingly, Xhabir Murat Ejupi changed his name to John Murad after his arrival at Ellis Island in 1913. Ferid was the eldest of three boys in the Murad family.
Growing up, the Murad family owned a small restaurant, where young Ferid gained valuable life experiences by working alongside his family members. This early exposure to the world of business and hard work would serve as a solid foundation for his future endeavors.
In his eighth-grade years, Ferid was tasked with writing an essay about his top three career choices. He listed physician, teacher, and pharmacist, although at the time, clinical pharmacology wasn’t yet a recognized medical field. Little did he know that his career would eventually encompass all these roles.
Ferid Murad’s journey to becoming a prominent figure in the field of medicine began at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he earned a prestigious Rector Scholarship. He completed his undergraduate studies in chemistry in 1958, setting the stage for his future achievements.
During his senior year at DePauw University, he received sage advice from his faculty advisor, Forst Fuller, and fraternity brother Bill Sutherland. They encouraged him to consider a new MD-PhD program at Case Western Reserve University, initiated by Bill’s father, Earl Sutherland, Jr., in Cleveland in 1957. This innovative program provided full tuition coverage for both degrees and a modest stipend, ultimately convincing Ferid to embark on this dual-degree journey.
Ferid Murad’s academic pursuits culminated in obtaining both an MD and a pharmacology Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in 1965. His post-graduate journey included internships and fellowships in various medical institutions, solidifying his expertise.
Ferid Murad’s illustrious career in academia and research began at the University of Virginia, where he rose from associate professor to full professor. His tenure there included roles such as Director of the Clinical Research Center and Director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology.
In 1981, he made a significant move to Stanford University, where he held key positions such as Chief of Medicine at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center and Associate Chairman of the Department of Medicine. His impressive career trajectory continued, and in 1988, he received the American Heart Association, Ciba Award.
After leaving Stanford, Murad contributed his expertise to Abbott Laboratories as Vice President of Pharmaceutical Discovery before founding his own biotechnology venture, the Molecular Geriatrics Corporation, in 1993.
In 1997, he returned to academia, joining the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Here, he played a pivotal role in creating a new department of integrative biology, pharmacology, and physiology. His contributions were multifaceted, including chairmanship, professorship, and director emeritus roles.
Ferid Murad’s most renowned research unveiled the mechanism by which drugs like nitroglycerin functioned in the human body. He discovered that these drugs released nitric oxide, leading to the relaxation of smooth muscles. This groundbreaking work, complemented by the research of Robert F. Furchgott and Louis J. Ignarro, earned them the 1998 Nobel Prize and the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1996.
In addition to his Nobel recognition, Murad was a distinguished member of the National Academy of Sciences and various other esteemed scientific societies.
Notably, in 2015, Ferid Murad joined 76 Nobel Laureates in signing the Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change, contributing to global environmental efforts.
Throughout his career, Murad was committed to advancing scientific knowledge. He edited a book series titled Herbal Medicine: Back to the Future and left a lasting legacy through his contributions to research and education.
Sadly, Ferid Murad passed away in Menlo Park, California, on September 4, 2023, at the age of 86. His life’s work continues to inspire and shape the world of medicine and pharmacology, leaving an enduring legacy for future generations.