Alejandro Zaffaroni, an innovator in biotechnology and drug delivery systems, and generous humanitarian with close ties to Stanford University, died at home in Atherton on March 1. He was 91.
In 2006, Stanford established a $10 million financial aid program for Latin-American students to honor the Silicon Valley executive and his wife Lida. The Alejandro and Lida Zaffaroni Scholarship and Fellowship Program was partly funded by gifts from a group of more than 35 associates who credited him with providing inspiration, mentorship and friendship during the course of their careers. The Zaffaronis were also major donors to the Lida and Alejandro Zaffaroni Breast Imaging Center at the Stanford Cancer Center.
"Over the past five decades, a generation of individuals has been inspired by Alex Zaffaroni's values," Isaac Stein, former chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees and a longtime business associate of Dr. Zaffaroni, said in a press release announcing the financial aid program in 2006. "A group of those individuals now have come together to establish this program, to help create an enduring recognition of Alex's core values at Stanford University."
A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Zaffaroni earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Montevideo in 1941. He first came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Rochester, where he earned a doctorate in biochemistry in 1949.
In 1951, he joined Syntex Corp., a small chemical company in Mexico that was involved in steroid research. He played a key role in transforming it into a major pharmaceutical company headquartered in the Stanford Research Park. Eventually, he became president of Syntex Laboratories and the Syntex Research Institute.
He was widely considered a pioneer in drug delivery and the field of biotechnology and had a significant impact on the development of Silicon Valley. He founded a number of companies, including ALZA Corp., which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2001; Affymax Inc., which was acquired by Glaxo in 1995; Affymetrix; Alexza Pharmaceuticals; Symyx Technologies; and Maxygen. In 1980, he collaborated with three prominent Stanford professors in founding the DNAX Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, which was sold to Shering-Plough Pharmaceuticals in 1982.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Technology — the nation's highest honor for individual achievement in science and technology. He also served as a member of the Stanford University Hospital Board of Directors and the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine Advisory Council at Stanford.
He is survived by his wife Lida, son Alejandro, daughter-in-law Leah, daughter Elisa, and two grandchildren, Alejandro Peter and Charles A. Zaffaroni.
A private family service has been held. A memorial service may be held at a later date.
Isabel Carmen Arrabal, a longtime resident of Palo Alto, died on March 7. She was 96.
She was born in Camaguey, Cuba. She and her husband Rolando decided to send their three children to the United States in 1962. They were able to join them in 1963 in Palo Alto.
A school teacher for 20 years in Cuba, she then worked at Stanford for 20 years, then 15 more at ALZA Corp., retiring at age 80. She enjoyed sewing, making many dresses and knitting blankets for her friends and relatives.
She was predeceased by her husband Rolando and her seven brothers and sisters. She is survived by her daughters, Maria Huix (Luis), Tina Crego (Rick) and Isabel Rodgers (Charles), as well as six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held on Thursday, March 13, at St. Nicholas Church in Los Altos.