January 8, 2010

Levy Retires After Almost 40 Years

Dr. Rene Levy, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the Metabolism and Transport Drug Interaction Database (DIDB), retired at the end of 2009. Levy worked at the UW School of Pharmacy for almost 40 years.

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Photo by Team Photogenic

He received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1965 from the University of Paris and completed his doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco in 1970. That same year, he was invited to join the faculty at the School to initiate teaching in the areas of pharmacokinetics and biopharmaceutics.

“I have loved working at UW from the first day I came to Bagley Hall,” he said. “It is an amazing institution, and I feel fortunate to have been associated with it.”

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Dr. Levy shares a laugh with Dean Thomas Baillie at a conference a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Tom Baillie

He went on to serve as chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics for 26 years. He also held a UW appointment as professor of neurological surgery. In that role, he was part of the group that established the UW’s Epilepsy Center, which is now housed in Harborview Medical Center.

His most recent contribution to the School was the creation of the DIDB. Levy set out to build the database in the 1990s because he recognized the need for more widespread knowledge about the risks of drug interactions.

In 2002, he launched the database as a public venture through UW’s TechTransfer. Today, researchers from pharmaceutical companies from throughout the world subscribe to the database.

Levy’s academic career has allowed him to fulfill his life’s dream — which was to be a researcher and a teacher.

“As a researcher, I still cannot believe that I was able to publish one paper every six to seven weeks, on average, for 39 years,” he said. “This was due principally to the atmosphere of collaborative research that is unique to the UW.”

The focus of his research has been to optimize the use of antiepileptic drugs and minimize drug interactions. Levy has published hundreds of articles and co-edited several books, including Metabolic Drug Interactions and Antiepileptic Drugs, which released as a fifth edition in 2001.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science named Levy a fellow in 2007 for “distinguished contributions to the treatment of epilepsy, and for fostering the development and rational use of new drugs and therapeutic modalities.”

Over the years, he has also taught countless pharmaceutical students and supervised numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Both Ken Thummel, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics, and Rodney Ho, professor of pharmaceutics, count Levy as a mentor.

And he has had a positive impact on so many of the people who counted him as a mentor, teacher or colleague.

“Dr. Levy has a true interest in other people and a unique ability to really listen to them and learn from their perspective,” said Isabelle Ragueneau-Majlessi, clinical associate professor and Levy’s successor as director of the Drug Interaction Database. “I will miss his never-ending enthusiasm and his intellectual curiosity.”

The School of Pharmacy wishes Dr. Levy the best in his future endeavors. He will leave a lasting legacy of excellence in the Department of Pharmaceutics and the School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Levy helped initiate the Milo Gibaldi Endowed Professorship in Pharmaceutics, and he helped inspire his friend and collaborator, Dr. William E. Bradley, to create a fund for the Department of Pharmaceutics. Both of these visionary funds provide invaluable support to faculty and students.

To give to the Gibaldi Fund, the Bradley Endowed Fellowship or to the Levy Endowed Fellowship in Pharmaceutics in honor of Dr. Levy’s retirement, visit https://sop.washington.edu/support or contact the School’s Office of Advancement at (206) 616-3217 or rxgiving@uw.edu. Checks can be made out to the UW Foundation and sent to Claire Forster at UW School of Pharmacy, 4225 Roosevelt Way, Box 354699, Seattle, WA 98195.

~January 8, 2010