Introduction and Background

Roland MEHL

The prix Galien was created in France in 1970 by a pharmacist named Roland Mehl. Its aim was to promote significant advances in pharmaceutical research. Until the creation of the Prix Galien, this field of research had remained largely unrecognized.

A prominent jury was brought together, including clinicians, toxicologists, pharmacologists and pharmacists. Each year, the award has been an opportunity to give credit to the most important drugs introduced into the public market as well as to the achievements of the best research team in the pharmaceutical field. Since its creation, the Galien award has grown into a major event. It is seen as an influential event by all those interested in pharmaceutical research, including public authorities, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and medical press groups. For this reason, it is also considered as the industry’s equivalent of the Nobel prize and the highest accolade for pharmaceutical research and development.

The importance of the Prix Galien in France has led to similar initiatives in several other countries. The first countries other then France to create their own Galien award were Belgium and Luxemburg in 1982, followed in 1984 by Germany, and in 1985 by the Netherlands. In 1988 the United Kingdom created a Galien award, followed in 1989 by Italy, in 1990 by Spain, in 1992 by Portugal, in 1993 by Canada, in 2001 by Switzerland and in 2007 by the United States, in 2012, Poland, Israël, Greece, Russia  and Maghreb in 2013.

China and Brasil are expected to follow in due course.

In addition, a European Galien award was created in 1990 in Paris to reward one of the winners of the national Galien awards of the two previous years. This prize was also awarded in Brussels in 1992 and in Berlin in 1994. After Canada introduced its own prize, the European Galien award was turned into an International Galien award in 1996, in London. The 30th ceremony of the French prix Galien and the 5th ceremony of the International Galien award took place at Unesco on 10 February 1999. On this occasion, a prominent honorary committee was invited, including Nobel laureates. Montreal organised the International Galien award in 2000, Madrid did so in 2002 and Lissabon in 2004, in Zurich in 2006. The 10th anniversary of the international prix Galien was awarded in Berlin in October 2008. New-York  hosted the 2010 edition, Lyon  the 2012's one and Monaco the 2014'sone.

Roland MEHL, Founder

Who was Galien?

Médaille du Prix Galien

Anatomist, physiologist, clinician and researcher, Galien is the father of modern medicine and pharmacology, and his work has been considered as a reference for over two milleniums.

Galien was born in AD 131 in Pergamos. He studied in Smyrna, Corinth and Alexandria, the three centres of medical excellence in the ancient world. According to a legend, Galien would have seen Aesclapius in a dream and this dream inspired and directed the rest of his life.

When he turned 17, Galien worked as a physician at a gladiators’ training centre. Marcus Aurelius requested him to come to Rome when he was 37 and living in Aquila. In Rome, he grew in reputation and stature as a healer, teacher, researcher and writer. His ideas on the functioning of the human body were so well received that he became the personal doctor of young Commodus, the Emperor’s heir. Galien died in AD 201. During his long and eminent life, Galen completed over five hundred pieces of work relating to anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical theory and practice and many forms of therapy. His work formed the basis of the school of thought known as ‘Galenism’ which dominated medical thinking until the Renaissance. He travelled for a period of time throughout the world, studying local plants and remedies. He described 473 original drugs and many substances from mineral and vegetal origin. He was the first scientist to codify the art to prepare active drugs with ingredients and vehicles.

His faculties of observation, logic and deduction made him the true successor to Hippocrates and his view that the prime aim of medicine is patient care has formed the very cornerstone of modern pharmacy.

Galien's oath

I swear, in presence of the masters of the Faculty and of my school fellows:

  • to honour those who taught me the principles of my art and to testify my gratitude by remaining faithful to their teachings;

  • to fulfil my tasks in the interest of public health, with conscience, and to respect, not only the legislation in force, but also the rules of honour, honesty and selflessness;

  • never to forget my responsibility, my duties towards patients and their human dignity, to respect professional secrecy;

  • in no case will I agree to use my knowledge and my position to corrupt manners and support criminal acts.

Claude Galien. Lithograph by Pierre Roche Vigneron.

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