Richard L. Veech, M.D./D. Phil.: A goodbye to a great mentor, colleague and friend, - may we someday meet again to finish our projects. William Curtis, Mary T. Newport, M.D., George Yu, M.D. February 2020
“Bud,” Dr. Richard Veech quietly left us after his last lecture at the Keystone Diabetes Conference in Santa Fe—sitting in his small, modest living room, alone, after drinking a glass of orange juice and a final telephone call to his son on January 29, 2020.
One of Harvard’s great economists, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, reminisced ten days before his death with Peter and Adolf Drucker that the “true mark of achievement” was not about fame, money or power but simply the opportunity to change for the better “lives of common people” who may never know who you were! Schumpeter and Drucker focused on economics, management and industry, while Richard Veech focused on the essential science of metabolism to make life better for all. Dr. Veech’s dream was to apply his lifetime research to better the lives of all human beings.
Dr. Richard L. “Bud” Veech, age 84, was one of these great people, a physician researcher, spouse to his deceased wife, father to his children; but beyond that, he became father to all those he touched with his passion for truth—we and the world became his new children. He was friend, pioneer in metabolic research, humanitarian, teacher, mentor, inspiration and hero to many. Truth evolves out of hard work from many passionate individuals and groups working and publishing unselfishly so others can push on.
The Passage of Progress in Science and Medicine
Richard grew up as a farm boy in Illinois and completed undergraduate at Harvard University in 1957, majoring in history and literature. He attended Harvard Medical School in 1961 and continued as a surgical resident, followed by a research fellowship at Cornell Medical Center. In 1969, he completed his Doctor of Philosophy at Oxford University in the metabolic lab of Nobel Prize recipient Hans Krebs, a pioneer in the study of cellular respiration and father of the Krebs Cycle, well known to every medical and life science student.
George Cahill Led the Way for Richard Veech
For the past thirty years, he focused on potential therapeutic uses for ketones and became a pioneer and world-renowned expert in this field. Once thought by the medical community to be harmful byproducts of metabolism (in diabetic keto acidosis), he expounded on the work of his mentor, Dr. George Cahill, Jr., and now we know that the ketones beta hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate are potent drivers of metabolism, providing an alternative fuel to glucose for the brain and other organs during fasting and in conditions characterized by insulin-resistance, in which glucose is not taken up normally into cells.
We have also learned from Dr. Veech that ketones drive biochemical pathways that increase blood flow and reduce inflammation by several different mechanisms. His work elucidated the most basic biochemical mechanisms that explain the profound results of his other ketone experiments, which demonstrated greater efficiency of the heart when fueled by ketones, protection of brain cells from toxins that produce Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and reduction of the characteristic plaques and tangles in the Alzheimer’s brain.
A Renaissance Man Beyond Science
While working on his doctorate at age 33, Dr. Veech was one of just ten survivors of an airplane crash in which thirty-two people died on Moose Mountain in New Hampshire. Dr. Veech heroically helped other injured survivors off the plane in spite of a fractured vertebrae.
A Lifetime in the Study of D Beta Hydroxybutyrate Ketone as Prevention and Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Chronic Degenerative Illnesses
After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Veech spent the remaining decades of his career studying metabolism, working up to his very last hours for the National Institutes of Health/NIAAA division in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Veech worked tirelessly since the mid-1990s to develop a D beta hydroxybutyrate ketone monoester that can provide instant therapeutic levels of ketones for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and is now under study in numerous research labs and just recently available to the public. As a great humanitarian, rather than considering what profits the ketone monoester might bring to himself, his goal was to mass produce the ketone monoester using techniques such as industrial fermentation to greatly reduce the cost, so that everyone who needs the ester can afford it. He tirelessly sought out like-minded individuals and companies to accomplish this task.
Dr. Veech has inspired authors as well as hundreds of other researchers, medical practitioners, and citizen scientists around the world to intensively study ketones and/or provide their patients or loved ones with nutritional ketogenic therapies, including eating a lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet; consuming coconut and MCT oil, caprylic fatty acid oils; overnight fasting; exercising; and using ketone salts and ketone esters. It is the power of metabolic science paving the way for proper nutrition for all to understand and accept. He published numerous scientific articles and books on ketones, and his work has profound implications for a broad audience. Research publications leveraging Dr. Veech’s work are accumulating weekly, and there is an ever-growing list of conferences, symposia and public events around the world on ketogenic diets and ketone supplements for a variety of conditions and for general health. The ketogenic diet has been used quietly behind the scenes for nearly 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy; from the early 2000s and Dr. Veech has written a number of hypothesis papers and book chapters on the therapeutic use of ketones to treat epilepsy and many other conditions, including: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s Syndrome, other neurodegenerative diseases, autism, Down Syndrome, type 1 and 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, traumatic brain injury, as an adjunct to standard-of-care treatment for cancer, improved cognitive and physical performance in athletes, soldiers, and healthy people, erectile dysfunction, pulmonary hypertension and most recently resistance to radiation injury.
The Clinical Need Now!
Dr. Veech worked to further the cause of ketones for treatment and prevention until his passing and was just beginning to see the results of his work come to fruition. He was not only a medical researcher, but he had compassion for those suffering and unselfishly provided ketones for those who needed it, even during its infant stages of development. He provided his ketone monoester when it could only be made one drop at a time in his lab to Steve Newport, the husband of co-author Dr. Mary Newport, as a clinical trial of one-person with Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in marked improvement in his symptoms. Dr. Veech inspired co-author Bill Curtis to take a ketogenic approach to controlling his symptoms of Parkinson’s. During his final days, Dr. Veech was working with co-author Dr. George Yu to embark on a study of the ketone monoester treatment for many men with advanced prostate cancer treated by androgen deprivation medications with extreme fatigue, insulin resistance and diabetes through the Yu Foundation.org. These are just a few examples of his humanitarianism and perseverance in the study of ketones and its potential uses in clinical medicine. Unfortunately, he will not be here to witness the great impact that his research will ultimately have in the treatment and prevention of disease for millions around the world. He will be sorely missed but always remembered—our teacher, our hero, our dear friend, Dr. Richard L. Veech.