Open main menu

Pierre Potier (22 August 1934 – 3 February 2006) was a french pharmacist as well as a chemist. He held the position of Director of the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (1974 to 2000), as well as a teaching position at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. He was a member of the Académie nationale de pharmacie, the Académie des sciences, the Académie des technologies and the Academia Europaea.


Potier attended the Faculté de pharmacie, and then after the institut de chimie des substances naturelles (ICSN) in Gif-sur-Yvette. While working at this institution he collaborated with Edgar Lederer, Derek Barton and Guy Ourisson. In 1968 he lost his wife to breast cancer. This pushed him to work on cancer. For two years from July 1994, he was the directeur général de la recherche et de la technologie to the ministère français de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche. In 1998 he received the golden medal of the CNRS. He was president of the fondation de la maison de la chimie. Potier was an officer of the Légion d'honneur.


His research was orientated towards understanding and imitating natural synthesis occurring in plants so as to produce the actif compounds in drugs. In the course of his work he perfected the tubuline test, a simple biological test permitting the rapid detection of anti-tumoral drugs. Amongst his discoveries are: vinorelbine (from the Catharanthus roseus) and Docetaxel (from Taxus baccata). Docetaxel commercialised under the name Taxotere has become one the most prescribed anti-cancer drugs in the world and was the number one source of revenue for the CNRS from patents, till its expiration . All his life he wanted to prove that public research could and should cooperate with the private sector. Potier was convinced that mutual profit could result from this cooperation.