Leo H. Sternbach
Born May 7 1908 - Died September 28, 2005
Patent Number(s) 3,371,085
Leo H. Sternbach is known throughout the scientific world for the discovery
of a new class of tranquilizers, including Valium and Librium, ranking
him as one of the leading innovators of his time. His medical innovations
brought vast improvements to the quality of life for those suffering
from anxiety and sleep disorders and earned him over 100 U.S. patents.
The discovery of benzodiazepines by Leo Sternbach and colleagues Lowell
Randall and Earl Reeder improved the lives of many people and introduced
a new class of safe and effective tranquilizers to treat sleep and anxiety
disorders. Librium and Valium , the first two drugs from a new class
called benzodiazepines, proved to be more effective at reducing stress
and anxiety than previous tranquilizers and had fewer side effects.
The global healthcare company Roche introduced Librium in 1960 and Valium
in 1963, the most prescribed drug in the world from 1969 to 1982.
The success of Librium and Valium prompted further research into other
types of benzodiazepines and several variants were developed by Roche
(Versed , Klonopin , Dalmane , and Lexotan ), in addition to products
from other companies (Atavan and Xanax ). Since their worldwide launch
more than 40 years ago, benzodiazepines have proven to be safe and effective,
when used properly.
Sternbach was born in Abbazia, now part of Croatia, and earned his Ph.D.
in organic chemistry, his greatest passion, from the University of Krakow
in Poland in 1931. He began his career at Roche in 1940 in Switzerland
but was forced to flee to the company's U.S. headquarters the following
year to escape the Nazi occupation of Europe. Sternbach maintained an
office at the Roche New Jersey site until 2004.