Beloved father, husband, uncle, physician, scientist John J. Whalen, MD, died in the early morning hours of August 20, 2020 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Known to family, friends and colleagues as Jack, he was born in 1947 in Amityville, NY to John J. (senior) and Antoinette (nee: Buono) Whalen, graduated Amityville Mem. HS, where he was a varsity football and wrestling athlete. He completed his BS in physics cum laude at Rensselaer PI; completed coursework at Georgetown Law; served as a US patent examiner; received his MD from UVA School of Medicine; completed residency in internal medicine at Sloan Kettering CC and Cornell North Shore Hospital; and completed a respiratory disease fellowship at NYU Hospital.
Following clinical training, Dr. Whalen led a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, holding executive level positions at major pharma companies and clinical research organizations, including: Merck Sharp & Dohme, G.H. Besselaar Assoc., Alpha Therapeutics, Forest Labs, and MedImmune.
Dr. Whalen held several patents and authored numerous publications in peer-reviewed research journals, covering various clinical phase studies of hypertension, heart failure, hematology and hematopoiesis. Dr. Whalen first came to the Philadelphia area in the 80s to work with Merck on enalapril (Vasotec), the 2nd ACE-inhibitor approved for human use. His contributions helped drive enalapril to be the 1st blockbuster prescription medication for Merck. Subsequent efforts led to FDA approval of, among others: ACE-inhibitor benazepril (Lotensin); a blood substitute perfluorocarbon oxygen carrier (Fluosol); and the monoclonal antibody palivizumab (Synagis) for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus infection disease in pediatric patients.
Jack was a devoted supporter of scholastic athletics, generously contributing to the St. Joseph’s Prep Wrestling and Crew Teams and the Columbia University Lightweight Rowing Team.
His interest in foreign and historic cultures, art and architecture led to life-long travel throughout South America, Europe and Asia: touring the Peruvian Andes and Inca ruins in the 1970s, amidst civil unrest and before it was fashionable, stepping away from the podium at medical conferences across Europe during the 1980s to appreciate its storied museums and architecture.
Jack was an avid music fan, a self-taught guitarist, with a repertoire of 60’s and 70’s American folk and rock tunes. His music interests also included classical-era symphonies, piano concertos and sonatas, opera and chamber music, and enjoyed live performances in cities he visited.
Throughout an accomplished career and personal life, Jack espoused the virtues of honesty, knowledge and perseverance. Respected by peers, colleagues and family, he believed these tenets to be central to a worthy life. Forever in pursuit of scientific knowledge and the understanding of disease, in his final years, Dr. Whalen volunteered for clinical research trials of disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Whalen is survived by two sons, John J. Whalen III, PhD of Pasadena, CA, and Brian M. Whalen, PhD of Philadelphia, PA, his brother Michael F. Whalen of Fairfax Station, VA, ten nieces and six nephews.
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