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Professor David Cowan is Pharmaceutical Scientist of the Year

Professor David Cowan, Director of the Drug Control Centre (DCC), has received the Pharmaceutical Scientist of the Year Award 2013 from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for his outstanding contribution to pharmaceutical science in leading the anti-doping project for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Judges from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society unanimously agreed the presentation of this award to acknowledge Professor Cowan’s exceptional management of the high impact project.

In partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, the DCC set up a dedicated state-of-the-art laboratory at GSK’s research and development site in Harlow, Essex, scaling up their operation ten-fold, throughout the Games.  

More than 6,250 samples (up to 400 per day) were analysed during the event, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using instruments in accordance with the highest possible standard of accreditation for analytical work and accredited by WADA. Nearly 400 staff were employed, including 37 DCC core staff and over 175 temporary analysts and overseas scientists. 

The research programme to make this possible included developing new methods for screening the samples to ensure sensitivity, selectivity and speed of operation. Catching two athletes at the Paralympic Games with a new biomarker test for human growth hormone was a world first. The advanced highly sensitive screening and confirmation approaches ensured robust bioanalytical methods were in place to detect cheats and to deter the misuse of drugs in sport. 

Professor Cowan was presented with the award at a ceremonial evening on Sunday 8 September at the ICC, Birmingham. 

Professor Cowan, who is a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said, ‘I am delighted and honoured to receive this award. Having an outstanding team of highly skilled scientists around me, who are all similarly committed to protecting the health of the athletes, aided my task to ensure that these Games were conducted to the highest ethical standard.’