John Staniforth, 1953-2015

A leading figure in the pharmaceutical sciences has died

May 14, 2015

John Staniforth was born on 2 October 1953 and educated at Lady Manners Grammar School in Bakewell, Derbyshire, before going on to a BSc (1972-75), which was followed by a PhD (1977-80) at Aston University. He began his career at the University of Bath’s department of pharmacy and pharmacology, where he remained for the whole period from 1980 to 1999, as lecturer (1980-84), reader (1984-90) and finally professor of pharmaceutical technology (1990-99) and head of pharmaceutics (1996-99).

An expert in drug delivery systems, powder technology and particle engineering, Professor Staniforth published more than 200 papers in refereed journals. He was a highly successful inventor, patenting and commercialising several novel pharmaceutical products. And he regularly acted as a consultant to pharmaceutical companies, food companies and legal practices pursuing patent cases.

By the late 1990s, Professor Staniforth was leading a research team at Bath with 10 postdoctoral fellows, 10 graduate research officers and 15 postgraduate students. He was also working as principal of Coordinated Drug Development and director for the Centre for Drug Formulation Studies, and it was out of these that he co-founded a spin-off called Vectura – to which he was seconded as chief scientific officer. This went on to become one of the country’s most successful pharmaceutical companies for treating airways-related diseases.

Rob Price, professor of pharmaceutics at Bath, remembers Professor Staniforth as “a very endearing person, always cheerful, full of energy and humour” whose range of enthusiasms included gardening, rugby and BBC Radio 4. Yet he also possessed “all the skills to be a very good mentor and boss”, not only because he was “supportive and loyal” but because he was “open to anyone asking him about anything” and judged people on the basis of their skills rather than their qualifications: “He took a technician through to become an assistant professor in the US. He didn’t care about your background but what you could do in the lab.”

A fellow of the Zoological Society of London for his research on dosage form design for veterinary use as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Professor Staniforth received the AstraZeneca Industrial Achievement Award in 2003. He returned to Bath on a part-time basis the next year, while continuing to run a series of pharmaceutical companies.

He died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on 6 March and is survived by his wife Elaine, three children, two stepchildren and a granddaughter.

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