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November 5, 1930 |
|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 organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry 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.
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 received his M.Sc. in biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1952), and his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute, Reḥovot (1958), with a thesis on the chemistry of steroids. After postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute, New York (1959–60), he was on the scientific staff of the Weizmann Institute (1960–65), before moving to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he became professor (1972) and Lionel Jacobson Professor of Medicinal Chemistry from 1975. He was rector (1979–82) and pro-rector (1983–85). In 1994 he was elected a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences. His honors include the Kolthof Prize in chemistry from the Haifa Technion (1994) and the Israel Prize in chemistry (2000).
Raphael Mechoulam's 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.
- A podcast (open access) of an interview with Raphael Mechoulam, recorded by Steve Alexander for the British Journal of Pharmacology on the occasion of his 80th Birthday in November 2010.