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Those of you fortunate enough to come across Dr. Edmund de Maar from Geneva, Switzerland, at congresses and workshops during the 1990s and early 2000s will have noticed that he remained eloquent and mentally sharp. Ed - as he liked being called by his friends - had a genuine passion for clinical trials, and attended conferences throughout his retirement. Any speaker who didn’t know their stuff had better watch out if Ed was about.
Sadly Ed died in February 2009, but I still think about him often. To me, he rates as one of the unsung heroes and great characters of clinical research. I’m not aware of an obituary for him on the net, so I’d like to dedicate this blog to him.
Ed had a long-term interest in clinical trials in developing countries, and was interested in emerging markets long before it became trendy to do so.
After working as a lecturer in pharmacology at Utrecht University, the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, and Emory University in Georgia, he was a staff physician with both Merck and Geigy Pharmaceuticals, before becoming director of clinical pharmacology and director of research product planning with Geigy. He joined the World Health Organization in 1972 as senior program officer for research and training in tropical diseases, and helped develop a collaborative international research and development strategy to control six chronic debilitating diseases: malaria, schistosomiasis, filariasis, trypanosomiasis, leprosy, and leishmaniasis.
At the Fourth International Meeting of Pharmaceutical Physicians in Paris in 1981, he spoke about his experiences. This lecture formed the basis of a paper in The Journal of International Medical Research (Volume 11, Number 1, 1983).
"There are now many conferences about clinical trials in emerging markets, and this gives me some satisfaction because we helped to stimulate, fund, and establish the infrastructure for research in many countries," he told me in 2003.
However, he also voiced his frustration about the tendency of the younger generation to dismiss and overlook older people.
"Some people who realize I'm 76 years old are not so willing to see me as an equal partner," Ed told me. "Some young CRAs are eager to learn something from me, but often I find I get rejected by the younger generation. If I spot a mistake they have made, they can quickly become antagonistic towards me."
Ed joined ACT's Editorial Advisory Board in 1993. He wrote six articles for us, reviewed numerous manuscripts, and participated as a moderator in several of our annual European meetings. Recognizing his contribution, publisher Wayne Blow presented Ed with an outstanding achievement award in 2000. He was also an influential figure in the Geneva Clinical Research Forum.
Although he took great pride - and maybe some satisfaction - in catching out speakers whom he thought were wrong, he always remained positive and forward-thinking, and was surprisingly uncritical of the highly regulated climate in which clinical researchers now operate.
"The regulations are needed to do a good scientific job. The clinical trial process has to be firmly controlled to prevent those who like to cut corners. And let's be honest, some of us might do that," he told me, also in 2003.
His advice to younger people in the industry was to strive for objectivity, develop a distinct set of principles and ideas, and never to compromise these principles. "There are a lot of new therapeutic opportunities, but we need proof that they are genuine advances," he said. "The nature of the daily work may be routine, yet the purpose of it is not. It might involve drudgery for weeks on end, but the end gain is worth it. The work is as exciting as it ever was."
If you want to read more about Ed, click on this link: