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This profile was last updated on 8/28/08  and contains information from public web pages.

Member

Phone: (202) ***-****  HQ Phone
Society for Neuroscience
1121 14Th Street, NW Suite 1010
Washington Dc, District of Columbia 20005
United States

Company Description: The Society for Neuroscience is a nonprofit membership organization of basic scientists and physicians who study the brain and nervous system. Recognizing the...   more
Background

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations

Education

  • doctorate
    California Institute of Technology
  • undergraduate degree
    Reed College
  • master
    University of Washington
8 Total References
Web References
Reed College | Dr. B. Kenneth Koe Winner of the Prestigious Reed College Vollum Award
www.reedcollege.com, 28 Aug 2008 [cached]
Kenneth Koe, retired neuroscientist from Pfizer and a 1945 Reed College graduate, is the winner of the 2008 Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology. Koe, a career scientist, played a primary role in the development of the antidepressant Zoloft, which has been prescribed for more than 115 million people in the United States.
...
Koe began his career at Pfizer in 1955, where he initially studied penicillin offshoots before being transferred to a small team of central nervous system researchers charged with discovering novel drugs to treat schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Within the group, Koe's role was the study of the brain neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, but his primary focus was on serotonin and the then burgeoning concept that it had an association with depression.
Koe teamed with Willard Welch, who was tasked with the creation of new molecules, and shaped the development of a molecule that would act as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
...
Koe was born in Astoria, Oregon, raised in Portland, and graduated from Reed with a degree in chemistry.
...
While at Pfizer, Koe maintained an exceptional scholarly output, authoring or co-authoring 14 U.S. patents and 150 technical articles and abstracts, including chapters for the three-volume Industrial Pharmacology series on Neuroleptics (1974), Antidepressants (1976), and Anxiolytics (1979). He is a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, ASPET, and the Society for Neuroscience.
Thames Valley Music School | About Us | Board
thamesvalleymusicschool.org, 19 Sept 2012 [cached]
Kenneth Koe
Pfizer Plus - Retiree Spotlight
www.pfizerplus.com, 12 Sept 2011 [cached]
Ken Koe Pfizer Plus - Retiree Spotlight
...
In May 1945, Ken Koe stood on the outdoor convocation stage at Reed College in Portland, OR to receive his B.A. in chemistry. This past August he again stood on the college's convocation stage, this time to receive the 2008 Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology. The award honors individuals in fields of science and technology for their perseverance, fresh approach to problems and solutions, and creative imagination.
In his 40-year career with Pfizer, Ken has demonstrated all of those qualities.
Ken Koe joined Pfizer in 1955, after receiving a chemistry Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, as a Research Scientist in the Chemistry department of Pfizer Research Laboratories in Brooklyn, NY.
"I always wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry because of its strong emphasis on scientific research," said Ken. "Publications on the elucidation of the chemical structure of terramycin by Pfizer scientists led me to apply for a position at Pfizer."
From the beginning, Ken worked on new drug discovery efforts, including new antibiotics and semi-synthetic penicillins. He eventually transferred into a small team of central nervous system researchers charged with discovering novel drugs to treat schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. His primary focus was on biochemistry of serotonin in brain and the then burgeoning concept that it had an association with depression.
Ken teamed with fellow Pfizer chemist Willard Welch to shape the development of a molecule that would act as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
...
In March 2006, Ken and his former team members received an award from the American Chemical Society for "team innovation" in honor of this discovery.
"My Zoloft colleagues and I have been awed and gratified that our efforts produced a world-class drug that helps sick people," said Ken.
Looking back on those years, he knows precisely what he enjoyed most about working at Pfizer. "I had a unique opportunity to do creative thinking and conduct scientific research in technical areas such as CNS biochemistry and pharmacology that were outside my formal chemistry training."
Ken retired in 1995 as Research Advisor in the Neuroscience department of Pfizer Central Research in Groton, CT., and he's just as clear about what he enjoys most about his retirement. "My time is my own," he said.
That's a good thing, because Ken's retirement keeps him very busy. He is active in his town of Ledyard, CT as a member of the Ledyard Planning Commission and the town's Democratic Town Committee. He indulges his love of music by singing in the Chancel Choir at his church, the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry, and in the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Chorus. He also is on the Board of Trustees of the Thames Valley Music School at Connecticut College.
But he still keeps connected with the industry that he has contributed to for 40 years. He usually attends an international cannabinoid research symposium each year, and has annually attended a neuropsychopharmacology meeting on Pfizer's behalf.
FDA drags its heels on pediatric anti-depressants
www.zoloft-zoloft.com, 6 June 2006 [cached]
LEDYARD, Conn. -- Standing on a brightly lit stage, the picture from an overhead projector filling a screen behind him, Ken Koe looked uncomfortable.
He smiled and blinked, shifted his weight and stole glances at a nearby exit as one speaker after another extolled his accomplishments as a scientist.
A diminutive, bespectacled man, his hair sprinkled with gray, Koe would have preferred to be somewhere else.
But there he was one day this spring, accepting an award from Pfizer Inc.'s Asian Pacific American Group, which recognized him for his role in developing Zoloft, the blockbuster drug used to treat depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"What am I going to do with this?"Koe asked, pointing to a glass statuette inscribed with his name.
He shrugged, hoisted the gift for the audience to see and just as quickly set it down on the podium, hoping to quiet the applause that bounced off the walls in an auditorium at Pfizer's Groton facility.
At home in Ledyard days later, Koe would warm to the tale, flailing his arms in the air, tracing equations on an imaginary chalkboard as he recalled in an interview his early years in Groton and the setbacks that preceded his work on Zoloft, which was introduced to the public 12 years ago.
Pfizer has received hundreds of notes from aunts, grandfathers and wives praising the work of Koe and a colleague, Willard Welch.
...
Koe has been stopped in grocery stores and at church, hugged by strangers eager to show their appreciation for a drug that's enabled them to go to work, volunteer in their communities and spend time with their families - activities that otherwise would be all but impossible for them to enjoy.
Nevertheless, the retired Koe, 79, said he still finds it hard to fathom the impact of the anti-depressant that's been prescribed for more than 115 million people in the United States.
"I think of a white chemical in a bottle when I think of Zoloft," he said.
Zoloft, the brand name for the chemical sertraline hydrochloride, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, a class of drugs that boosts the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.Serotonin acts as a "messenger," sending signals to the brain that help patients function.
In 1955, Koe began work in Pfizer's Brooklyn, N.Y., lab as a chemist, developing antibiotics.Four years later, he moved to the Groton facility, where he began studying serotonin in animals, research that would help lay the groundwork for the development of Zoloft.Later, in the 1970s, Koe searched for ways to treat pain without the use of opiates.
During his 40 years at Pfizer, Koe authored more than 100 articles and papers.
...
Koe learned to review previous studies and to build on findings that had failed to lead to successful products.In his early work with serotonin, for example, he studied the chemical tametraline, which proved ineffective as an anti-depressant.
Tests showed the chemical functioned more as a stimulant, a use Pfizer was not interested in pursuing.Although his research had failed to yield the desired result, Koe was convinced that the development of a viable anti-depressant was within reach.
"We knew we were looking for drugs for mental disorders, so those things are always in your mind," he said."It's constant background noise."
That was 1978.
In a memo to Pfizer's director of chemistry, Chuck Harbert, Koe hypothesized that one or two chlorine atoms could be introduced into a tametraline molecule to produce new molecules potent enough to boost the level of serotonin in the brain.
...
"Usually, directors just ignore your memos, but Chuck followed up on it and assigned a scientist to it," Koe said.
...
Welch completed the work and Koe performed tests in his lab to show that one of the new molecules, sertraline, acts as an SSRI.
...
"Making pharmaceutical drugs takes so much preparation," Koe said."That light bulb going on takes time to cultivate."
Born in Astoria, Ore., and raised in Portland, Koe was the oldest of three children.His family lived in a moderate-size Asian community, where Koe worked part time in a Chinese restaurant and attended language school in the evenings and on Saturdays.
"We were young and impressionable and our teachers were trying to instill a sense of Chinese, of your heritage," he said."Some of it kind of rubbed off on me, but not until later."
Koe earned his undergraduate degree at Reed College in Portland, which he attended on a scholarship, and got his master's at the University of Washington and his doctorate at the California Institute of Technology.
He married his wife, Jo Ann, shortly before starting work at Pfizer.When the Koes moved to Ledyard in 1959, Jo Ann began a 25-year career as a teacher at the Juliet W. Long School.
Koe retired in 1995.Thinking back, he said he would have stopped working earlier had he known his wife of 40 years would die that same year.
He still lives in the same Woodridge Circle home that he and his wife designed and where they raised their two daughters.The dwelling reflects Koe's Chinese heritage.
Plants in ceramic pots decorate tabletops and sections of carpeted floor.Calligraphy and drawings of birds and ethereal images - "typical Asian wall hangings," Koe calls them - adorn the walls.
Miniature paper screens are splashed with spots of red and black.Classical music wafts from a small radio in the kitchen.And a blue and white "Zoloft" license plate hangs on a wall, spied between the spindles of a spiral staircase.
Welch, the chemist who synthesized the molecule for Zoloft, had the license plate on his car at one time, but gave it to Koe as a gift.
...
Koe continues to dabble in the scientific world.He attends a conference each year as a consultant for Pfizer, picking up new trends in the industry and reporting back to the drug company.
"We still work on things that Ken was active in 10 years ago," said Heym, the Pfizer vice president.
Reed College | Dr. B. Kenneth Koe Winner of the Prestigious Reed College Vollum Award
www.reedcollege.com, 28 Aug 2008 [cached]
Kenneth Koe, retired neuroscientist from Pfizer and a 1945 Reed College graduate, is the winner of the 2008 Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology.Koe, a career scientist, played a primary role in the development of the antidepressant Zoloft, which has been prescribed for more than 115 million people in the United States.
...
Koe began his career at Pfizer in 1955, where he initially studied penicillin offshoots before being transferred to a small team of central nervous system researchers charged with discovering novel drugs to treat schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.Within the group, Koe's role was the study of the brain neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, but his primary focus was on serotonin and the then burgeoning concept that it had an association with depression.
Koe teamed with Willard Welch, who was tasked with the creation of new molecules, and shaped the development of a molecule that would act as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
...
Koe was born in Astoria, Oregon, raised in Portland, and graduated from Reed with a degree in chemistry.
...
While at Pfizer, Koe maintained an exceptional scholarly output, authoring or co-authoring 14 U.S. patents and 150 technical articles and abstracts, including chapters for the three-volume Industrial Pharmacology series on Neuroleptics (1974), Antidepressants (1976), and Anxiolytics (1979).He is a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, ASPET, and the Society for Neuroscience.
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