The ‘father of cannabis research’ dies aged 92

Raphael Mechoulam

World pioneer in cannabis research, Professor Raphael Mechoulam, has died in Israel at the age of 92.

A professor in the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy, Mechoulam began his cannabinoid experiments in the 1960s in Israel.

His research team was the first to isolate delta9-THC (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, which affects the brain, consciousness, and creativity as well as Cannabidiol (CBD), the most important substance in the plant with medical benefits.

Among Mechoulam’s many other achievements are the design and synthesis of numerous important novel cannabinoids that have important therapeutic potential as pharmaceutical drugs.

Mechoulam also helped form The Hebrew University Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research (MCCR) in 2017 based on his significant discoveries in this field over the past 55 years.

Hebrew University President Asher Cohen said: “Most of the human and scientific knowledge about cannabis was accumulated thanks to Prof Mechoulam. He paved the way for groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers around the world. Mechoulam was a sharp-minded and charismatic pioneer. This is a sad day for the academic community and for the university. I send my sincere condolences to his family.”

A distinguished career

Mechoulam is one of the founding members of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines and the International Cannabinoid Research Society. In 1994, he was elected as a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

He received his PhD at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot (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), focusing on the isolation, structure elucidation and total synthesis of the main active principles of cannabis.

Mechoulam moved to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became a full professor (1972) and then the Lionel Jacobson Professor of Medicinal Chemistry (1975). Between the years 1979-1982 he served as the University’s Rector.

Image shows: Professor Raphael Mechoulam

©American Friends of the Hebrew University

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