Pharmacy honorary doctor Mary Jeanne Kreek in memoriam

2021-03-29

Mary Jeanne Kreek, world-renowned researcher, clinically active professor in the field of addiction at Rockefeller University, NY, and honorary doctor at Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy passed away on the night of Sunday 28 March 2021.

Mary Jeanne Kreek (left) with Lars Gunne in Uppsala in 2013
Mary Jeanne Kreek (left) with Lars Gunne in Uppsala in 2013

Mary Jeanne Kreek died quietly at her home in New York at the age of 84. She is survived by her children Robert and Esperance with families. Mary Jeanne Kreek, in 2000 promoted to Pharmacy honorary doctor at Uppsala University, was an American neurobiologist, specialising in the study and treatment of addiction and dependence. As a researcher, she was head of the Laboratory on the Biology of Addictive Diseases and received a Beatrice M. Haggerty Professorship while maintaining a position as senior physician at Rockefeller University Hospital. In 2014 she was awarded the NIDA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Professor Kreek received her medical degree from Columbia University and specialist training at the Cornell Medical Center in New York before entering addiction research at Rockefeller University. In the 1960s, she became part of a team of doctors and researchers who in a pioneering project treated heroin addicts with methadone, which was the start of the methadone program that is today used internationally. She was also an advisor to the methadone project that Lars Gunne later started in Uppsala.

Mary Jeanne Kreek, Rockefeller University
Mary Jeanne Kreek, Rockefeller University

During all her years as a researcher and clinician, Professor Kreek has been active at Rockefeller University and established herself as an international expert on issues related to alcohol and drug addiction. She has on several occasions been hired by the Swedish government and has had an influence on the development of the Swedish treatment programs for opioid addiction, including buprenorphine, which in combination with naloxone is given as an alternative to methadone treatment. Mary Jeanne Kreek has also been of great international importance in dealing with the fatal overdose of opioid drugs that has characterised the past decade.

In addition to her extensive clinical activities, Mary Jeanne Kreek has made significant contributions to basic scientific research. In addition to patient studies, she has developed animal experimental models for the study of drug effects. She was interested in the importance of endorphins for drug addiction and worked closely with addiction researchers at Uppsala University. Professor Kreek was also a pioneer in exploring the links between genetics and the risk of developing addiction. Among many things, she discovered that carriers of certain gene variants linked to specific endorphin systems are at increased risk of developing drug dependence.

In Sweden and Uppsala, Mary Jeanne Kreek was actively involved in both projects and education in the field of addiction. She has on several occasions welcomed students and researchers from different parts of our country that have gained valuable experience in her vicinity and strengthened their academic competence.

Mary Jeanne had a distinct personality. She was able to demonstrate solid knowledge and skills and not only participated in conversations and debates at research conferences. She was also involved in media discussions and took space both during scientific sessions and at the dinner tables. Her commitment was highly appreciated and she will leave a large space behind - both among colleagues and the many with addiction problems whose lives she has contributed to saving and providing hope for the future. For these efforts, her memory will live on and be preserved well into the future.

Fred Nyberg
Professor e.m, Faculty of Pharmacy
post retirement professor, U-FOLD


Mathias Hallberg
Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy
Chair, U-FOLD

Photo: Svenska Brukarföreningen, Rockefeller University

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Last modified: 2021-06-22