Roth received his bachelor's degree from St. Joseph's College, Philadelphia, in 1976. He then went to Iowa State University as a doctoral student under George Kraus. After receiving his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Iowa State University in 1981, he spent a year as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Rochester, then joined Parke-Davis of Warner-Lambert Company as a Medicinal Chemist in 1982. He was promoted to Senior Scientist in 1984, Research Associate in 1986, Senior Research Associate in 1988, Section Director in 1990, Director of Atherosclerosis and Exploratory Chemistry in 1992, and Senior Director of Atherosclerosis, Inflammation and Exploratory Chemistry in 1993. He was appointed Vice President of Chemistry just prior to the merger between Warner-Lambert and Pfizer in 2000 and remained in that role as a part of Pfizer Global Research and Development in Ann Arbor, Michigan until 2007. He then joined Genentech in San Francisco, California as Vice President of Discovery Chemistry.
Before atorvastatin, Roth worked to develop a different drug, but Sandoz AG beat his team to a patent. Roth first synthesized atorvastatin in 1985. For the discovery, he received the 1997 Warner-Lambert Chairman's Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award, the 1999 Inventor of the Year Award from the New York Intellectual Property Law Association, the 2003 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, the 2003 Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Service, the 2005 Iowa State University Distinguished Alumni Award, and the 2006 Pfizer Global Research and Development Achievement Award. Roth was named a 2008 Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society.
In addition to his discovery of atorvastatin, Roth is the inventor or co-inventor of 42 patents and the author or co-author of 48 manuscripts, 35 published abstracts and eight book chapters. From 1996 until 2007, he served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Michigan.
He and his wife, Michelle, have four children: David, Sarah, Rebecca and Aaron. David Roth was married on July 31, 2010, to Alyssa Roth, formerly Alyssa Dipzinski.
- Baumann KL, Butler DE, Deering CF, Mennen KE, Millar A, Nanninga TN, Palmer CW, Roth BD. The convergent synthesis of CI-981, an optically active, highly potent, tissue selective inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase. Tetrahedron Lett 1992; 33: 2283-4.
- Brower PL, Butler DE, Deering CF, Le TV, Millar A, Nanninga TN, Roth BD. The synthesis of (4R-Cis)-1, 1-dimethylethyl, 6-cyanomethyl-2,2-dimethyl-1,3- dioxane-4-acetate, a key intermediate for the preparation of CI-981, a highly potent, tissue selective inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase. Tetrahedron Lett 1992; 33: 2279-82.
- Roth BD, Blankley CJ, Chucholowski AW, Ferguson E, Hoefle ML, Ortwine DF, Newton RS, Sekerke CS, Sliskovic DR, Stratton CD, et al. Inhibitors of cholesterol biosynthesis. 3. Tetrahydro-4-hydroxy-6-[2-(1H-pyrrol-1-yl)ethyl]-2H-pyran-2-one inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase. 2. Effects of introducing substituents at positions three and four of the pyrrole nucleus. J Med Chem 1991 Jan; 34(1): 357-66.
- Roth BD, Bocan TM, Blankley CJ, Chucholowski AW, Creger PL, Creswell MW, Ferguson E, Newton RS, O'Brien P, Picard JA, et al. Relationship between tissue selectivity and lipophilicity for inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase. J Med Chem 1991 Jan; 34(1): 463-6.
- Shaw MK, Newton RS, Sliskovic DR, Roth BD, Ferguson E, Krause BR. Hep-G2 cells and primary rat hepatocytes differ in their response to inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1990 Jul 31; 170(2): 726-34.
- Roth BD, Ortwine DF, Hoefle ML, Stratton CD, Sliskovic DR, Wilson MW, Newton RS. Inhibitors of cholesterol biosynthesis. 1. trans-6-(2-pyrrol-1-ylethyl)-4-hydroxypyran-2-ones, a novel series of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. 1. Effects of structural modifications at the 2- and 5-positions of the pyrrole nucleus. J Med Chem 1990 Jan; 33(1): 21-31.
- Sliskovic DR, Roth BD, Wilson MW, Hoefle ML, Newton RS. Inhibitors of cholesterol biosynthesis. 2. 1,3,5-trisubstituted [2-(tetrahydro-4-hydroxy-2-oxopyran-6-yl)ethyl]pyrazoles. J Med Chem 1990 Jan; 33(1): 31-8.
- Kende AS, Roth B, Sanfilippo PJ. Facile, palladium (II)- mediated synthesis of bridged and spirocyclic bicycloalkenones. J Am Chem Soc 1982; 104: 1784-5.
- Kende AS, Roth B, Sanfilippo PJ, Blacklock TJ. Mechanism and regioisomeric control in palladium (II) - mediated cycloalkenylations. A novel total synthesis of (+/-)-quadrone. J Am Chem Soc 1982; 104: 5808-10.
- Roth BD, Roark WH. Synthesis of a chiral synthon for the lactone portion of compactin and mevinolin. Tetrahedron Lett 1988; 29: 1255-8.
- Bruce D. Roth, The Discovery and Development of Atorvastatin, a Potent Novel Hypolipidemic Agent, Progress in Medical Chemistry, 2002, pp. 1–22, vol. 40.
- Rowe, Aaron (2008-08-20). "Meet the Guy Who Invented Lipitor". Wired.com. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Simons, John (2003-01-20). "The $10 Billion Pill". Fortune. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "ISU chemistry alum, and current graduate student, earn Perkin Medal awards". Iowa State University. 2013-09-05. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Li, Jie Jack (2009). Triumph of the Heart : The Story of Statins. Oxford University Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 9780198043515.
- Johnson, Linda A. (2012-01-01). "Lipitor’s unlikely success". The Journal Gazette. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Winslow, Ron (2000-01-24). "The Birth of a Blockbuster: Lipitor's Route out of the Lab". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-16.
- Li, Jie Jack (2006). Laughing Gas, Viagra, and Lipitor: The Human Stories behind the Drugs We Use. Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 9780195345766.
- "Chemical Society to honor "Heroes of Chemistry" during National Meeting". American Chemical Society. 2008-08-13. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "Inventor of Lipitor to speak in Chico". Red Bluff Daily News. 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2014-06-15.