Dr. David Horrobin, Pioneer in Fatty Acid Research
By Patricia Kane, Ph.D.
In April 2003 the scientific community lost one of our greatest treasures, Dr. David Horrobin. Born in England on October 6,1939, he was a scholar of Oxford where he obtained a First Class Honours medical degree. To this he added a clinical medical degree and a doctorate in neuroscience. Dr. Horrobin was a fellow of Magdalen College where he taught medicine to students alongside the father of the field of essential fatty acids, Dr. Hugh Sinclair.
Dr. Horrobin began his odyssey into the research of essential fatty acids in 1972 at the University of Newcastle Medical school and continued his work on essential fatty acids (EFAs) and prostaglandins at the University of Montreal. He became increasingly fascinated in the development of novel therapeutic agents based on lipid biochemistry and its application to human disease. Dr. Horrobin set up a small pharmaceutical company, Efamol, in 1979, which several years later became a public company, Scotia Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Over the course of 18 years, Dr. Horrobin's innovative approach to research led to the discovery of many lipid products for the treatment of disease.
In 1997 he set up a new company, Laxdale Ltd., for the exclusive development of novel lipid pharmaceuticals for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar depression and Huntington's disease. Laxdale's work will continue and is dedicated to providing a lasting tribute to his memory.
Dr. Horrobin's principle lipid focus was originally on the physiological function of omega-6 EFAs. His research on the medical benefits of gamma linolenic acid opened a doorway into the profound influence of lipids toward health, sparking a minor revolution of lipid studies and research around the world.
I first met Dr. Horrobin in 1979 whereby my fascination with lipid therapy and its impact upon the brain was further ignited. Working at first with Dr. Carlton Fredericks and Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, and much later with Dr. John Foster and Dr. Annette Cartaxo, we began to integrate the clinical use of lipid therapy for our patients with neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Today, EFA research in the United States has evolved to gold standard analysis of EFAs at Johns Hopkins Kennedy Krieger Institute and university studies with NIH grants. Dr. Horrobin's work inspired and continues to nurture positive clinical outcomes in our patients with MS, autism, ALS, Parkinson's, PDD, bipolar, CFIDS, epilepsy, OCD, schizophrenia and depression by respecting the critical balance of targeted EFA application.
Dr. Horrobin was the founder and editor of two journals--Medical Hypothesis and Prostaglandins, and Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. He was a prolific writer who wrote and edited numerous books and over 800 scientific publications. One of his main interests was schizophrenia, and he was medical advisor for the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine and president to the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain.
Dr. Horrobin inspired a multitude of people whose lives he touched. He had a unique combination of enthusiasm and tenacity, humility and friendliness, with remarkable creativity, a huge depth of knowledge and striking analytical power. He was an outstanding communicator in speech as well as in the written word. He will be greatly missed. Dr. Horrobin's legacy will continue as our research continues to unfold on the application of balanced lipid therapy and its impact upon the cell membrane, the brain and the body human.