Spotlight on the Scientific Excellence of Michael J. Rathbone, Ph.D.


Spotlight on the Scientific Excellence of Michael J. Rathbone, Ph.D.

By Marilyn N. Martinez1* Ph.D  and David J. Brayden2 Ph.D.


  1. Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation, Center for Veterinary Medicine, U.S.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Rockville, Maryland USA. ORCID # 0000-0002-4512-853X: Email:
  2. School of Veterinary Medicine and UCD Conway Institute, University College Dublin, , Belfield, Dublin D04 V1W8, Ireland. ORCID # 0000-0002-8781-8344 Email: 

*    This news article reflects the views of the authors and should not be construed to represent FDA’s views or its policies

Publish Date


Greatness is defined not only by what a person accomplishes but also by their ability to motivate others to express the full potential of their talents, the willingness to share insights and wisdom with students and seasoned professionals, and the selflessness of ensuring that others have opportunities to shine.  These are individuals whose work have broad impact not only as pillars of the scientific community but importantly for their contributions to the health and wellbeing of others. It is with this definition of greatness that we wish to honor our colleagues and dear friend. Dr. Michael J. Rathbone, who died on October 25th, 2022.

For many years, Mike has been a powerful influence in the field of controlled drug delivery, providing the building blocks for scientific advancements through his creativity, hard work, and  willingness to explore novel paths in drug delivery.  His contributions have impacted both human and animal health. This is clearly demonstrated by the more than 151 peer reviewed publications and patents (with a H index of 36 and 4214 citations), as well as his role as editor of eight books in the area of modified release drug delivery and 10 special theme issues of journals





Mike obtained his PhD in Pharmaceutics from the University of Aston, Birmingham, UK. Over his career he mentored 14 students through their research higher degrees (MSc and PhD). In terms of his professional affiliations, he was the Founder and Managing Director of ULTI Pharmaceuticals, a veterinary pharmaceutical company located in New Zealand. He was formerly Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology and Dean, School of Pharmacy, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Prior to this, he was Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, Griffith University, Australia, and the Director of Research and General Manager of InterAg, New Zealand, where he spearheaded the company’s veterinary controlled drug delivery research and directed their national and global collaborative research activities. He was an Editor of the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics and served on the Editorial Board of several prestigious journals including Journal of Controlled Release and Drug Delivery and Translational Research.

His research included veterinary drug delivery innovations included bovine teat retention in situ gelling intramammary formulations, intravaginal inserts for oestrus control, exploration of nanoparticles in the treatment of human cancers, and evaluation of controlled release topical formulations and oral mucosal delivery systems. In terms of animal health, one of his important scientific and commercial innovations was the CIDR intravaginal insert for oestrus control.  The T-shaped nylon spine covered by silicon rubber allowed for the wings of the insert to be folded together to facilitate insertions.  Once released, the device returned to its original configuration, allowing it to be retained within the vagina of cattle.  Device removal was achieved by pulling on a plastic tail that protruded from the vulva.  The silicone skin was impregnated with progesterone(i).

Mike made a tremendous contribution to the development of the CRS as a whole and to the Preclinical Science and Animal Health group of the CRS in particular. He served on the Board of Governors, the Board of Scientific Advisors, and served as Member-At-Large on the Board of Directors. He held many leadership positions such Chairman of the CRS  Committee Focusing on Veterinary Products (5-year appointment), was the Inaugural Chairman of the Education Committee (6 year appointment) and was the inaugural Series Editor of CRS Books. He served on the Young Scientists Committee, Young Scientist Mentor : Protégé Committee and was inaugural co-chair of the Preclinical Sciences and Animal Health Committee. He was a regular co-chair of the Veterinary Programmes at the annual meetings from 2000-2006 and received numerous service awards in recognition.  He was also a great advocate of the CRS “Get up and get educated,” sessions at the annual meeting.  His company, InterAg, co-sponsored many memorable social event evenings for the preclinical sciences and animal health group at annual meetings.  Those events were so popular that they were regularly gate- crashed by other groups in the CRS!  Many of the initiatives he undertook are the forerunners of many of the CRS’s current activities, especially in promoting the work of young researchers. In recognition of his contributions to CRS, he received the CRS Distinguished Service Award in 2007 and was elected as a Fellow of the CRS in 2010. 

From our personal perspectives, there are many memorable moments we have both shared with Mike. We invited a number of other colleagues to also  share their experiences, both as a friend and a colleague.  We invite others to likewise provide thoughts they’d like to share.  We hope to upload any additional comments on the CRS website.

Marilyn Martinez: “I first was introduced to Mike at one of the CRS Annual meeting.  We developed a friendship immediately, and I was included in a group of colleagues working on research projects involving animal health. Over the years, when we’d meet up at one of the CRS annual meetings, Mike enthusiastically discussed his various projects, of which he was particularly proud of his achievements work in the development of the CIDR device.  In addition to explaining the details of the device design and manufacture, he would share his hopes for future modifications and uses.  Similarly, he enjoyed listening to my perspectives on challenges facing animal health and my publications covering the numerous research projects in which I was engaged.  He frequently included me as a co-author of books he edited on veterinary medicine and was always a source of encouragement. He included me on several CRS initiatives and ultimately nominated me for election to Fellow of the Controlled Release Society, an honor I cherish to this day. Mike ultimately moved back to the academic arena where he enjoyed sharing his knowledge and years of research experience with his students.  It is not surprising that he is one of the Benefactors who contributed to the CRS Foundation to support the development of leadership and advances in the field of controlled release and technology”.

David Brayden: “When I was Chair of the UKICRS Chapter, I was invited to visit New Zealand in 2006 by the local Chapter.  When Mike found out, I was hastily driven from Auckland to Hamilton to visit his company site and to stay in his house.  We went salmon fishing on one of the great New Zealand lakes and had a memorable few days. I think he was most happy spending time on water going after fish.  He was a very generous host.  I ended up hiring one of his staff, Leanne Rawlinson, as a PhD student at UCD, which I think was his original goal!  She subsequently got her PhD with us in 2009. At CRS meetings we had lots of laughs, culminating in our PEARLS debate at the 2008 annual meeting on whether there was greater innovation in human medicine or animal health. He had a really great knack of connecting people at CRS”.

Sevda Şenel
Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology
Hacettepe University, faculty of Pharmacy

“It always makes me happy to write about Mike because there are only good things to mention about him and so many!  The only difficulty is to find the most appropriate words to reflect and emphasize my thoughts and  feelings about Mike. He is a good friend, good colleague, good mentor... 

I first  heard of Mike from the scientific books he had edited in the same field of my research area, oral mucosa, and drug delivery!  I still remember how I was excited  when I first met  Mike at the Controlled Release Society Meeting (CRS) (it has been such a long time,  honestly I do not remember the exact year, but it was in the early 90’s)!   Afterwards, I had the chance to work together with him on the “Veterinary” and   the “Education” Committees of the CRS , which were established with his devoted enormous effort and time. Moreover, our research interest continued to be in the same field  (oral mucosal delivery and veterinary drug delivery) so our collaboration continued not only through the society activities but also scientifically, and which resulted in several review papers in high impact-factor journals as well as book chapters and books.

Mike has been to Turkey on several occasions, giving invited lectures at the International Pharmaceutical Technology Symposium (IPTS-2004 and IPTS-2012) and visiting my university for scientific interactions. I had the opportunity to work together with him and his team in two different projects for one-month period at the InterAg,  Hamilton-New Zealand,  where he has been the project  leader and manager since many years and very successful in terms of project and sub-program management, divisional advisory groups, and also postgraduate supervision and formal mentoring of young scientists.

Mike has always used his personal energy to drive change strategies, accepts personal responsibility for the outcomes of decisions/risks taken and in he has been successful all the time. He had the talent to  identify and promote the opportunities arising as a result of change.

In addition to his exceptional leadership and management skills, with his background in pharmaceutical sciences Mike has always planned and applied the new information and technologies for the benefit of both human and animal health. The scientific work and achievements of Mike have been recognized internationally in many ways. He has contributed to numerous papers as invited author and also has numerous research articles published in peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors. He is also editor of numerous books and special theme issues of journals.

I also had the chance to visit  the School of Pharmacy at the IMU-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a week-period, which gave me the chance to see Mike, as the Dean, where he created and fostered an environment in which there was a high level of cooperation within and between teams.  I was amazed to see that his judgment and problem-solving character,  once again,  led him to resolve major conceptual scientific, technical, and management problems which have a significant impact on the field of research, professional function  at the school. As the Dean, he has achieved to plan, seek, allocate resources and also monitor to achieve outcomes. He has significant contributions to divisional/ organizational policy directions, strategic planning.

After completing this mission, he decided to get retired and initiate his own company and also allowed himself  the time to use all the equipment and supplies he had been buying and stocking for fishing up to that time !

Herewith, I wanted to share some pictures which reflects the Mike’s great love to nature, different than what we know as a scientist”!




Roderick B. Walker (PhD), Professor of Pharmaceutics, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rhodes University, Makhanda, 6140, South Africa Email:

“How does one write about a 22-year friendship, kindled in science but became a close relationship? With difficulty, but here goes. Intelligent, unassuming, humble, and caring are a few of the many adjectives that can be used to describe Mike Rathbone, a man I first met at my first CRS Annual meeting in Paris in the year 2000. I arrived early at a pre-conference workshop in 2000 and was sitting in the room when Mike walked in. As usual, he introduced himself and we started chatting and soon it became clear that this was a person who was passionate about science and people. The rest they say is history as from that point a lifelong friendship and collegial relationship evolved from which I benefitted much more than Mike I am sure. I cannot recall how often we chatted throughout that meeting but he made an impression on me, as he did on many others. He introduced me to people I would ordinarily not have spoked to. He saw potential partnerships and watered and fertilized these through germination and harvesting and made everyone feel they could contribute to his many forward-thinking innovations for the CRS as an organization. Many of which are now entrenched in the life of the organization.

Our second meeting at the CRS conference in San Diego in 2001 cemented our friendship. I, as I was travelling from South Africa always planned to arrive a day or two early at conferences and since Mike was active on many committees he would be there early too. I used to scout the city and enjoy the new destination before the meeting. In future years it was my role to see what we could do to explore the city in which the conference was in and when we had time would then spend time enjoying the sites and more than a few “adult”  beverages too. Consequently, one day bus tours were often on the cards, one of which was in Hawaii in 2004 as we toured the island of O’Ahu, a six-hour journey in which Pearl Harbour, the legendary North Shore and beaches were on the cards. The big Kahuna, our driver had Mike and myself in hysterics after about 3 hours and we never forgot that trip. It was in Glasgow in 2003 at the Moat House and the Fontainebleau in  Miami in 2005 that we sat in the lobby bar and met and chatted to many who were attending  the meeting.

Through these social events and Mike’s support, I met Art Tipton, David Brayden, David Friend, Sevda Senel, Marilyn Martinez, Ruth Schmidt, Diane Burgess, Susan Cady, Yvonne Perrie, Thomas Rades, Arlene McDowell, Ian Tucker, Raid Alany, Craig Bunt, Simon Keely and many other top scientists and members of the CRS

Often, we would have breakfast at a local restaurant which was ideal for those of us travelling on a tight budget. This would allow us to catch up and spend time engaging on topics outside of the meetings. Fly-fishing, golf, the guitar are amongst the many interests Mike had. Many a time we would walk around cities and into sports stores to look at equipment and often Mike would purchase some new technology to support his hobbies. I was fortunate to visit Mike in New Zealand and observe him in his element when fly fishing for trout. Fortunately, he caught one, which we ended up smoking and eating for breakfast with cream cheese.  I was also fortunate to host Mike in South Africa and share with him some of our beautiful country. He was particularly interested in the Nguni cows, the giraffe and elephant he saw.

There are many other anecdotes and examples of wonderful times together and I hope through these few examples, you have gained some insight into a person who has made my career so much better than it could have been. I have met others through his interventions who I am pleased to call friends. I am sure I speak for many that when I say thank you Mike Rathbone. I am forever indebted to you for your willingness to share your expertise, time, and friendship with me”.

Thierry Vandamme
University of Strasbourg, UMR 1260, Regenerative NanoMedecine, 1 rue Eugène Boeckel, 67000 Strasbourg, France. Email:

“When I met Mike over 20 years ago, I met a truly caring friend. Each time, he wanted to know my latest developments and without having finished explaining to him, I was always entitled to the list of qualifiers "great", "magnificent", “beautiful”, "wonderful", “splendid”.. which always ended with encouragement . Mike is a passionate researcher who took pride in seeing the success of others. In order to promote the development of the work of the youngest, Mike contributed to the establishment of mentors to help the youngest researchers at the international meetings of the Controlled Release Society. It was a great success and a benefit for all the participants !!! I had written a book chapter with Mike and realized he was a scientist who likes precision and detail and was happy to share it with others”.

(i) Rathbone MJ, Bunt CR, Ogle CR, Burggraaf S, Macmillan KL, Burke CR, Pickering KL. Reengineering of a commercially available bovine intravaginal insert (CIDR insert) containing progesterone. J Control Release. 2002 Dec 13;85(1-3):105-15. doi: 10.1016/s0168-3659(02)00288-2.