Peter Carpenter and Jane Shaw Carpenter have made significant contributions to the world through their pharmaceutical research and philanthropy work.
Shaw Carpenter is the co-inventor of the scopolamine transdermal patch to treat motion sickness. She is widely recognized as an expert in this field, for which she holds seven patents. She has served on the boards of several research and development companies, as well as being a trustee on the board of Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, Grace Cathedral and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Carpenter is responsible for developing a unique patient consent model that led to the success of the only intrauterine device available on the market in the U.S. at the time. He has served on several boards, including the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. He also served as an Air Force aide at the White House and as executive director at Stanford Medical Center. He also is the founder the Mission and Values Institute.
Their paths crossed while working on these groundbreaking initiatives at Alza Corporation. Shaw Carpenter was leading the charge in the development of a new class of products and drug-delivery systems as president and chief operating officer at the pharmaceutical company, and Carpenter was steering the revolutionary decision to require women to sign an informed consent form to receive their IUD.
Carpenter credits much of his life's success to his early years navigating dangerous situations as a smokejumper before turning his focus to pharmaceuticals and philanthropy work.
After his freshman year at Harvard University, he applied for a wildland firefighting job in California and was ultimately invited to be part of an elite smokejumper program, in which firefighters parachute out of planes to fight remote forest fires in difficult terrain where danger is ever-present.
Carpenter said smoke jumping forced him to confront the reality of the workplace — a place where there was intense teamwork, which people's lives depended on.
"Smoke jumping was one of the most fundamental experiences that I have had in my life. It was a much more formative experience than any of those I had at Harvard. ... I learned how to work with other people, how to value their expertise, how to judge them and when it was best not to judge them at all," he said.
After graduating from Harvard with a degree in chemistry, Carpenter became a parachutist during the Vietnam War, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps 5th Force Reconnaissance Company, going behind enemy lines to collect information about the opposing force's troops. He was later asked to work in the office of the Secretary of Defense focusing on Vietnam War projects.
Carpenter launched his pharmaceuticals career in Palo Alto in 1976, when he was recruited to Alza, where he worked as an executive for 16 years.
"One of the things I learned is failure is an important thing in the process of learning," he said.
Carpenter said when he took the lead on developing the patient consent model for the company's intrauterine device, other companies were running away from IUDs. The infamous Dalkon Shield had been pulled by its maker after disastrous incidents of illness and injury. Alza's was the only IUD available on the U.S. market at the time.
"I have always found that I learn a lot more from people who disagree with me than from those who agree with me," he said, so he reached out to the major players in the IUD controversy for input. With each expert, he outlined the dilemma and asked if the device should be kept on the market. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was to keep selling it.
To protect women considering using the device, Carpenter advocated for a revolutionary printed package insert to state the risks in clear language. Instead of technical jargon, it said, "You're about to make an important decision — one which could have fatal consequences. Before you make it, you need to know all the facts about this product. Here's the information, and here's some questions you should discuss with your doctor," Carpenter recalled.
In 1990, Carpenter left his executive vice president position to work in nonprofit leadership. Over the past 30 years, he's served on 25 boards and as an elected member of the Menlo Park Fire District board of directors and has held roles with various organizations including Leadership Palo Alto and the National Academy of Sciences. He also is the founder of Mission and Values Institute at Stanford University.
Carpenter said he is especially proud of his efforts with AIDS research. Before AIDS was well-understood, Carpenter was instrumental in leading the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).
"AIDS was a tough nut to crack. In the 1980s and 1990s, we didn't have a lot of the technical tools that are available today. The best we could hope for were medications, which could improve the treatment of those who had already caught the disease," he said. "There was a glimmer of hope when it became apparent that we could develop medications that reduced its transmissibility, but they weren't developed until much later."
AmFAR's mission was to promote innovative research by funneling small amounts of money to people so they could prove a concept and potentially attract more funding from larger foundations.
"I think we made a huge difference because we encouraged many people to enter AIDS research who wouldn't otherwise have done so," he said.
Shaw Carpenter said her life came full circle on a recent trip to the Galapagos Islands: At least a half dozen tourists on her boat excursion were wearing motion sickness patches behind their ears that she co-invented.
Shaw said seeing those scopolamine transdermal patches made her smile, knowing that her work as a pioneer in the field of transdermal medication delivery helped change the way drugs are administered.
Raised on a farm in Worcestershire England, Shaw Carpenter came to the Bay Area while earning her doctorate in physiology from Birmingham University. Her thesis was the beginning of her work that eventually led to the development of adhesive patches to deliver drugs through the skin and into the bloodstream.
In the mid-1960s, Shaw Carpenter had the opportunity to attend Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts for a two-year post doctoral research program. She ended up staying for six years.
"One day the phone rang and it was Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni calling to say that he had heard and read of the work that we were doing and was interested in us joining a company named Alza he was starting in Palo Alto," Shaw Carpenter recalled.
Alza was founded to develop medications that controlled the release of drugs to the body, specifically targeting the drug to the area it was needed. Shaw Carpenter was asked to focus on using skin as a route of entry for drugs to the bloodstream. The first product developed was transdermal scopolamine, a drug to treat motion sickness. Still used today, like on boats in the Galapagos.
Shaw Carpenter and her team went on to develop transdermal systems to deliver nitroglycerin for treatment of angina and estrogen for hormonal replacement therapy.
Shaw Carpenter later became CEO of Alza and then got the chance to duplicate that work environment as the CEO of Mountain View-based Aerogen, which specialized in the patented controlled delivery of drugs to the lungs. There, she explored inhaled delivery of insulin for use in diabetic patients and also antibiotics for control of lung infections.
During most of her tenure, she was generally the sole woman in corporate board rooms.
"I never experienced the 'glass ceiling' In the companies where I worked, and those where I served as a board member, I was never discriminated against," she said.
As a board member at Intel, McKesson, Yahoo and others, Shaw Carpenter brought significant experience in the strategic, financial and operational requirements of large organizations dealing with research and development and technological innovations. She has been recognized numerous times for her contributions. She was inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame, named Outstanding Woman of Silicon Valley and honored with the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award and the Athena Award from the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce.
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