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Sheldon J. Segal
Sheldon J. Segal, a summer resident of Woods Hole, is a distinguished scientist at the Population Council and an honorary trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Click for larger image


Population Council

Prix Galien USA

Sheldon Segal and Population Council Honored by Prix Galien USA for Development, Global Distribution of Implant Contraceptives

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—Sheldon J. Segal, an MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) Corporation Member, Honorary Trustee, and former Chairman of the Board, and the Population Council in New York have been awarded the Prix Galien USA 2008 Pro Bono Humanum Award for their science-based, global effort in support of reproductive planning and family health.

A leading authority on global population issues and contraceptive technology, Segal directed the research that led to the development of copper-bearing IUDs (intrauterine devices) and implant contraceptives, such as Norplant©, which are used by more than 8 million women worldwide. Segal and the Population Council, where he is a distinguished scientist, spearheaded a coalition between academic, private, philanthropic, and industrial organizations that made possible the development and distribution of reversible contraceptives such as Norplant© in underdeveloped and underserved populations worldwide.

“The significance of Norplant© is more than convenient birth control,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Prix Galien USA committee chair and an MBL Trustee. “Norplant©, and devices like it, allows people with limited access to health care to obtain tools for effective family planning, which were once inaccessible yet are necessary and life-changing for women worldwide.”

The Prix Galien USA Awards are considered the highest accolades for research and development in the pharmaceutical industry – equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

Segal was Chairman of the MBL Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2002, and served as a Trustee from 1983 to 2002. Formerly the director for population sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation, Segal is also a former visiting investigator at the MBL.

“My first summer at the MBL, on the invitation of Albert Tyler, was to use Arbacia (sea urchin) eggs to study embryo-toxic possibilities of precursor compounds that later evolved into Chlomid©, a fertility drug that has helped millions achieve parenthood,” Segal said. “Sharing a laboratory at the MBL with Albert Tyler and Alberto Monroy has been a lifelong thrill and memory.”

“It is asserted that standing on the corner of Water Street and MBL Street in Woods Hole, a young scientist can hear all the important new ideas in biological science and meet all the world's important scientists,” Segal said. “As a summer investigator at the MBL, I have had the privilege and advantage of keeping up with important new ideas in modern science. Our fundamental work with Arbacia eggs at the MBL was an important part of many of our efforts to provide advances for women's health around the globe."

Other members of the coalition that created and distributed Norplant© and other hormone delivery systems are also honored by the 2008 Prix Galien USA Pro Bono Humanum Award. They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the late Judah Folkman of Harvard University (who waived his royalty rights on a patent important to the Population Council’s work), Dow-Corning (which followed Folkman’s lead and also waived its proprietary rights), and Wyeth, which provided the Council access to its patented steroid compound used in the initial Norplant©. The recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony on September 24, 2008, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Segal is a member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine and is the 1984 Laureate of the United Nations Population Award. He has served as advisor to the World Health Organization and to the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank, the European Parliament, and the U.S. Congress.


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere. For more information, visit www.MBL.edu.