Life after bp

Nevin stewart

In our occasional series looking at how former bp employees are spending their lives in retirement, we’re pleased to introduce you to Nevin Stewart FRSC who
was a bp synthetic chemist.

Man with a mission

Your editor has known Nevin Stewart since 2013 and he’s always had a project or two on the go. His current project is actually more like a mission as he’s already devoted 10 years to it. Using his knowledge of chemistry and the experience of working for bp, he has set himself the task of finding a lead medical researcher to work on developing a simple and non-invasive treatment for a chronic eye condition called band keratopathy.

When we first met 10 years ago, Nevin had developed a new approach for making cider and successfully promoted and sold the kit as Juice and Strain™ (J&S®). He then used his new-found knowledge of advertising to help his daughter, a biochemistry graduate, promote her periodic table made entirely in macramé for the International Year of the Periodic Table in 2019! Nevin’s interest in band keratopathy comes from his son who has the condition.

According to a study published in India in 2022, band keratopathy affects 0.33% of its population of 1.4 billion which equates to 4.5 million affected individuals. Nevin explained band keratopathy to me as follows: “Calcium phosphate deposits gradually build up on the eye and this scaling can currently only be removed by treatments that are invasive, possibly damaging to the eye and don’t stop it recurring.”

Nevin’s goal is to find a new eye drop-based continuous treatment that will dissolve away the scaling, restore vision, inhibit further deposition, avoid potentially damaging and expensive surgery and so prevent disabling partial sight or blindness. At times, it’s seemed like mission ‘impossible’ as Nevin has struggled to find interested professionals.

Chemistry runs through Nevin’s veins and he’s animated in describing to me what needs to happen: “Active therapeutic agents for the daily eye drops will be identified by studying biodegradable aspartate and inulin chemistries and other candidate actives such as phosphocitrate, a powerful calcification inhibitor.” Going back to his bp days, he explains that: “the former compound classes are known to be effective inorganic scale inhibitors and removers in oilfield production settings.” However, he still needs to find someone to lead the study.

Over the years, Nevin has sought the help of former bp colleagues and approached leading universities but his list of contacts is running dry. However, in August he submitted a letter to Chemistry World, the monthly journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The letter was published and has already led to interest from around the world.

Nevin tells me there are some very promising lines of enquiry. He was particularly interested to hear from Alfonso Sabater, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of clinical ophthalmology from the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and from Vitaliy Khutoryanskiy, Ph.D., professor of formulation science at the University of Reading. Nevin is hoping to bring these two undoubted experts together in a transatlantic research collaboration.

There’s clearly some way to go before authorisation for a detailed clinical study but what was ‘mission impossible’ 10 years ago could finally become ‘mission possible’! Nevin is now focussed on identifying possible sources of funding and would welcome any thoughts or ideas from members. Certainly in Nevin’s case, life after bp could never be described as dull!

PHOTO: Nevin is seated in the centre and is joined by your editor, Peter Lay, on the right and Nevin’s friend David Gillespie. Viewers of the BBC’s Eastenders may recognise David who played Duncan the curate from 1987 to 1989 and who had a brief return this year!

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