BAP News

Malcolm Lader (1936 - 2020)

Wednesday, 2nd September 2020

BAP has learnt the exceedingly sad news of the recent death of Professor Malcolm Lader. Malcolm was BAP President between 1986 and 1988, and Chair of its Governance Panel between 2005 and 2007. In 2009, he received the BAP Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of world-leading contributions to experimental and clinical psychopharmacology. He remained an active and concerned BAP member who attended Summer Meeting each year until 2017, always with a twinkling eye asking Office staff whether they were being treated well by the current Council.

Malcolm grew up in a working-class family in Liverpool, and studied medicine in its University. An interest in experimental psychology was kindled whilst obtaining a BSc in Physiology with Biochemistry in 1956. He qualified in medicine in 1959 and within a year was a research assistant at University College London: colleagues included Hannah Steinberg, and Lorna Wing who supervised his work on barbiturates and benzodiazepines. He was awarded a PhD in Pharmacology in 1963 and an MD in 1964. Encouraged by Michael Shepherd, he trained as a psychiatrist, relished clinical work with Sir Aubrey Lewis, and obtained a Maudsley DPM in 1966. He was awarded a DSc at the University of London in 1976, in recognition of his contributions to psychophysiology and psychopharmacology; and in 1978 was appointed Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology at the Institute of Psychiatry. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In 2006, 50 years after his first degree, he obtained an honours degree in Law.

Malcolm joined the consultant staff at the Maudsley Hospital in 1970, and was a Foundation Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was a member of the MRC external staff from 1966 to 2001, and was President of the Society for the Study of Addiction between 1983 and 1993. He served on numerous Government committees including the Department of Health (Committee of Review of Medicines 1975-89), the Home Office Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (1981-2001), Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee, and Ministry of Agriculture. He was awarded an OBE in 1996.

Malcolm published almost 1000 papers in peer-reviewed journals, the stream of publications continuing until very recently. His early work centred on the effects of barbiturate drugs on the psychogalvanic reflex, starting a career-long interest in evaluating the benefits and risks of drug treatment in patients with anxiety disorders. By 1972, he had drawn attention to the potential for troublesome effects with benzodiazepines, and shortly thereafter started a series of studies integrating psychophysiological, metabolic, neuroimaging, and neuroendocrine techniques to help identify patients at particular risk. Within a few years, he had characterised the features of the benzodiazepine dependence syndrome, and evaluated both pharmacological and psychological approaches to drug withdrawal. Malcolm subsequently became concerned to identify non-benzodiazepine alternatives in the pharmacological treatment of anxiety states, and consequently conducted early pivotal randomised controlled trials and biological investigations with buspirone, antihistamines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Malcolm was a devoted husband to Susan, and a reliable father and grandfather. At work, Malcolm always encouraged - and when necessary, sometimes gently cajoled - many junior researchers along their paths towards higher degrees and scientific publications. The list of his co-authors clearly demonstrates his well-refined mentoring skills, and many of those whose careers he supported now occupy senior academic positions, within the United Kingdom and far beyond. Scientific communities, clinical colleagues, and regulatory authorities have all benefited enormously from Malcolm’s varied contributions in research, teaching and training: including his efforts to improve research design, through the development of more effective and better tolerated treatments, and in their judicious appraisal on a national and international level. Furthermore, many cohorts of patients have benefited from his consistent dedication to raising awareness of the need to accurately assess the potential risks and benefits of psychotropic drug treatment.

David Baldwin, President-Elect BAP