Endo Akira, who discovered cholesterol-lowering statins, dies at 90

A Japanese biochemist whose discovery of cholesterol-lowering statins revolutionized the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease has died. Endo Akira was 90 years old.

Born in Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan in 1933, Endo graduated from Tohoku University's Faculty of Agriculture before landing a job at a pharmaceutical firm.

While at the firm in the early 1970s, Endo started developing medicine targeting cholesterol, whose buildup can lead to hardening of the arteries.

In 1973, he discovered that a substance called statin generated by blue mold inhibited the production of cholesterol, and greatly reduced its levels in the blood.

The first statin drug was marketed in the United States in 1987 as a medicine for arteriosclerosis. Two years later, it also became available in Japan. At one point, statins were dubbed the world's best-selling medicine.

Endo received several prestigious prizes for his achievements. He won a Laskar Award in the United States in 2008, and a Canada Gairdner International Award in 2017. He was also honored in Japan as a Person of Cultural Merit in 2011.

Endo served as Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, where he once taught as a professor.

Sources close to the scientist say Endo died at a nursing facility in Tokyo on June 5.