Raphael Mechoulam

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Raphael Mechoulam
Professor Raphael Mechoulam.jpg
Raphael Mechoulam
Born (1930-11-05) November 5, 1930 (age 83)
Sofia, Bulgaria
Residence Jerusalem, Israel
Citizenship Israel
Nationality Israeli
Fields Medicinal Chemistry, Natural Products
Institutions Weizmann Institute of Science, Rockefeller University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Doctoral advisor Prof. Franz Sondheimer
Known for Total synthesis of tetrahydrocannabinol, major contributions to the chemistry of cannabinoids and discovery of endocannabinoids
Notable awards Heinrich Wieland Prize (2004)
Israel Prize (2005)

Raphael Mechoulam (Hebrew: רפאל משולם‎) (born 1930) is an Israeli professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Mechoulam is best known for his work (together with Y. Gaoni) in the isolation, structure elucidation and total synthesis of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active principle of cannabis and for the isolation and the identification of the endogenous cannabinoids anandamide from the brain and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) from peripheral organs together with his students, postdocs and collaborators.

Early life and education[edit]

Raphael Mechoulam was born in Sofia, Bulgaria on November 5, 1930. His father was a physician and head of a local hospital, while his mother "who had studied in Berlin, enjoyed the life of a well-to-do Jewish family". He attended an "American Grade School" until his parents were forced to leave their hometown because of anti-semitic laws and his father was subsequently sent to a concentration camp, from which he survived. After the communist takeover of hitherto pro-German Bulgaria in 1944 he studied chemical engineering, which he "disliked." In 1949 his family immigrated to Israel where he later studied chemistry. He gained his first research experience in the Israeli Army working on insecticides. He finished his PhD thesis on the chemistry of steroids under the supervision of Prof. Franz Sondheimer in 1950s. After a postdoctoral stay at the Rockefeller Institute with Prof. S. William Pelletier he became a junior member at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Academic career[edit]

Raphael Mechoulam, while being a junior member at the Weizmann Institute of Science, succeeded in the isolation, structure elucidation and total synthesis of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active principle of marijuana. He later became a full professor for medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he established the "Department of Natural Products". His major scientific interest is the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabinoids. He and his research group succeeded in the total synthesis of the major plant cannabinoids Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerol and various others. Another research project initiated by him led to the isolation of the first described endocannabinoid anandamide which was isolated and characterized by two of his postdoctoral researchers, Lumír Ondřej Hanuš and William Devane. Another endogenous cannabinoid, 2-AG, was soon discovered by Shimon Ben-Shabat, one of his PhD students. He published more than 350 scientific articles.

Awards and honours[edit]

2012 Rothschild Prize in Chemical Sciences and Physical Sciences [2]

2012 EMET Prize in Chemistry [3]

2011 NIDA Discovery Award, NIH, Bethesda, USA

2011 Eicosanoid Research Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, Seattle, Washington, USA

2010 Hebrew University, Medical Faculty Prize for excellence in research

2009 Israel Chemical Society Prize for excellence in research

2008 Medal, Palacky University, for studies on materials with biological activity, Olomouc, The Czech State

2006 ECNP (European College of Neuropsychopharmaclogy) Lifetime Achievement Award, Paris, France

2006 Doctor Honoris Causa, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain

2005 Henrietta Szold Prize for achievements in medical research,Tel-Aviv Municipality, Israel

2004 Heinrich Wieland Prize, endowed by Boehringer-Ingelheim, to promote research on “lipids and related substances in the fields of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Clinical Medicine”, Germany

2002 Elected, Honorary Member, Israel Society of Physiology and Pharmacology

2001 Doctor Honoris Causa. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

2000 Ariens Award and Lecture, Dutch Pharmacological Society sponsored by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2000 Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – chemistry,[4][5] among others.

1999 The International Cannabinoid Research Society established the "Raphael Mechoulam Annual Award in Cannabinoid Research"

1998 David R. Bloom Prize, for “excellence in pharmaceutical research”, Hebrew University, Israel

1998 Hanus Medal, 1998, by Czech Chemical Society in recognition of contribution to cannabinoid chemistry

1997 Hanf prize, Germany, for “the discovery of THC and lasting research on Cannabis – anandamides”

1994 Ulf von Euler Lecture in Physiology Karolinska Institute. Stockholm, Sweden

1994 Elected, Member Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

1994 Kolthof Prize in Chemistry, The Technion, Haifa, Israel

1991 Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. Nov. issue dedicated to R.M. for achievements in the cannabinoid field

1990 International Biannual Cannabis meeting (held in Colymbari, Crete), dedicated to R.M.

1982-1983 Distinguished Visiting Professorship, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

1964 Somach Sachs Prize for “best research by a scientist below 35 at the Weizmann Institute”


Further reading[edit]