Alfred Alberts, Lovastatin Discoverer, Dies

The Merck biochemist found the compound that led to a popular cholesterol-lowering drug.

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Jul 5, 2018
Alfred Alberts
MERCK

Alfred Alberts, a biochemist at Merck who discovered a cholesterol-lowering compound that led to the development of a widely used statin, died June 16. He was 87.

“Behind every drug there are heroes,” Michael Brown, a Nobel laureate at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who uncovered key cholesterol-processing steps in cells, tells The New York Times. And Alberts was “an unsung hero.”

Born in 1931 in New York, Alberts studied cell biology, but dropped out of a PhD program at the University of Maryland to take a job at the National Institutes of Health. There, he met his longtime collaborator P. Roy Vagelos in 1959 and began working in his lab. It was the beginning of a life-long partnership.

“He was my right-hand man,” Vagelos tells The Times. “We were more like brothers, like twins.”

In the 1960s, Alberts followed Vagelos to...

Alberts was a modest scientist who didn’t get a lot of credit for his contributions, but lovastatin, as the drug came to be named, “[t]hat was Al’s discovery,” Vagelos tells The Times.

Alberts is survived by his wife, three children, and two grandchildren.

Interested in reading more?

Alfred Alberts, Lovastatin Discoverer, Dies

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?