Fifty years of ibuprofen celebrated at BioCity Nottingham

21 December 2011

Nottingham, UK. Ibuprofen, the family pain medicine which is now one of the world’s best known medicines, was discovered fifty years ago by a team of Nottingham-based scientists.[1]

The original research team leader, Dr Stewart Adams, attended a celebration event at BioCity Nottingham earlier this month at Pennyfoot Street, the site of the original Boots laboratory where much of the work took place.

Dr Adams said: “I am surprised and delighted at how big a worldwide success ibuprofen continues to be. It is particularly so when I look back on how it all started in 1953 in the front room of a house on the outskirts of Nottingham, subsequently to be completed here in this building. But in the end many people across the organisation contributed to its eventual success — we were a great team.”

Ibuprofen molecule

One of the great achievements of ibuprofen is how it has provided millions of people around the world with accessible, effective and well-tolerated pain relief. The medicine, which is often used to treat conditions like headaches, sprains and period pains in the UK, is an important treatment for more serious conditions like managing rheumatoid arthritis in the developing world.

Ibuprofen was an important break through because during the recent decades the pain treatments available carried a relatively high risk of side effects, particularly at high doses. A new, more effective and better-tolerated treatment was required. Following its discovery in 1961, Ibuprofen was launched in the UK under the brand name Brufen in 1969, and then in the United States in 1974.1

Subsequently, its safety record was considered such that it became available as a non-prescription over-the-counter (OTC) medicine in 1983 in the UK, and in 1984 in the USA. Its good record as a well tolerated and effective inflammatory pain-relief medicine has been recognised worldwide, such that it is now available in over 80 countries.1

Dr. Glenn Crocker, Chief Executive of BioCity said: “We are extremely proud of the Pennyfoot Street connection with ibuprofen. It’s an inspiration for many of the 70 biotechnology companies and laboratories located here at BioCity. The type of scientific R&D being celebrated today is essential to the United Kingdom and the thought that another break through like ibuprofen might be discovered here in Nottingham drives us on. We are also very pleased that Abbott as licensees of the original Brufen brand are partners for today’s event.”

Nottingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Graham Chapman, said: “Nottingham is a creative city and has continued to build on the invention of the Ibuprofen. Because of the significant strengths in the science sector, particularly Life Sciences, Nottingham was designated an official Science City in 2005.

"Sciences continue to play a massive part in the city’s growth and economy. We are very proud to have Biocity — Europe’s biggest biopharma incubating facility here in Nottingham. This combined with the research that the universities carry out and being home to Boots means that Nottingham continues to pioneer new medication.
The council is committed to the future growth of science-led business and research in Nottingham by hosting and supporting the Science and Technology Advisory Council. All members are working together to ensure that science, research and particularly Life Sciences continue to help define Nottingham’s future.”

Further information

BioCity is a partnership between Nottingham Trent University, The University of Nottingham and the East Midlands Development Agency. It was made possible by the donation of laboratory and office buildings and equipment from BASF to Nottingham Trent University in 2001. Website:

1. Ibuprofen was first synthesised in December 1961 by Dr John Nicholson, and the anti-inflammatory properties were discovered by Dr Stewart Adams. Both worked at the Boots Pure Drug Company in Nottingham, UK. The first clinical trial took place in 1966 at the Northern General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland and in 1969 ibuprofen was launched in the UK as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis under the brand name Brufen.

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