Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli chemist who first isolated THC, died in his home. He was 92 years old. The American Friends of the Hebrew University confirmed his death. Mechoulam had been a professor at the university since 1966. Who Was Raphael Mechoulam? Raphael Mechoulam was an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Cannabis research and Mechoulam are essentially synonyms. This, of course, is likely due to his discovery and isolation of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol […]
Israeli medical cannabis pioneer, Professor Raphael Mechoulam, has passed away today at the age of 92.
Professor Raphael Mechoulam, who passed away at the age of 92, will be remembered as a pioneer in the field of medical cannabis research. As a researcher at the Hebrew University, he was the first to isolate the psychoactive compound THC in cannabis and also discovered the important medical compound CBD. His groundbreaking work paved the way for further research and advancements in the field, contributing to the growing understanding of the potential benefits of cannabis in medicine. Professor Mechoulam was a respected intellectual, a visionary, and a true leader in his field. His contributions to science and medicine will continue to have a lasting impact on society.
RIP dear Mechoulam, you will forever be in our hearts.
One of the most prestigious scientific awards, Technion’s Harvey prize in Chemical Engineering and Medical Sciences, went to Professor Raphael Mechoulam – the “Godfather” of modern cannabis medicine.
Professor Raphael Mechoulam from the School of Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is one of two winners of the esteemed Harvey Prize for his ground-breaking research in the world of medicinal cannabis. His studies in this field have given the entire world a new perspective on cannabis as a healing plant, rather than just a recreational drug.
Prof. Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria (1930), where he studied chemical engineering. After immigrating to Israel he received his M.Sc. in biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. In 1960 he joined the junior staff of the Weizmann Institute, and in 1985 he became a professor at the Hebrew University.
It was his curiosity about cannabis as a healing plant that led him to a police station in 1963, where he obtained his first sample – 5 kilos of hashish – to use for research purposes. Mechoulam then developed a relationship with employees at the Israeli Ministry of Health, who gave him permits to continue getting cannabis products for his studies over the next few decades. As he casually summarized it, “I always went to the ministry of health, they gave me a letter to the police, went to the police and drank some coffee with them, took the hashish I needed and that was it.”
He is the first scientist to isolate plant cannabinoids, first THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) then CBD (cannabidiol), and he also is the first to discover the human endocannabinoid system, which is a complex cell-signalling system made up of receptors found throughout our entire bodies. These receptors react to plant cannabinoids to treat numerous conditions we suffer from. All living creatures except insects have an endocannabinoid system.
His research led to the development of many safe and natural treatment options for more disorders and diseases than we can count, but particularly epilepsy, mental health, MS, and pain management. Both of the leading cannabinoids – THC and CBD, are used today in brand name medicines – Marinol, a medication used to treat nausea which uses a synthetic THC compound; and Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved medication to use natural CBD as the main ingredient, for treating rare forms of epilepsy.
For his many achievements in the field of cannabis research, Prof. Mechoulam has been bestowed with much recognition and a myriad of prestigious honors, including the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – Chemistry (2000) and the Kolthoff Prize in Chemistry from the Technion. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. In 2014, Prof. Mechoulam was named one of the “World’s 50 Most Influential Jews” by the Jerusalem Post.
Professor Joseph DeSimone
As previously mentioned, Mechoulam was only 1 out of 2 winners of Technion’s Harvey prize. The other winner was Professor Joe DeSimone, known in making significant contributions in materials science, chemistry, polymer science, nanomedicine and 3D printing.
DeSimone has also made important breakthroughs in the use of supercritical carbon dioxide to produce fluoropolymers, which has many medical applications. DeSimone has published more than 350 articles in scientific journals, and has over 200 patents to his name. Additionally, DeSimone is credited with creating important innovations in the field of precision medicine, such as the particle replication in non-wetting templates and in medical technology, including the continuous liquid interface production.
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A cannabis-based treatment for cancer may finally be on the horizon, thanks to the research of none-other-than Professor Raphael Mechoulam.
Mechoulam is leading a research team to work on developing cannabis-based treatments for three aggressive forms of cancer: melanoma (skin cancer), neuroblastoma (cancer originating in the surrounding and mostly neural system in children), and glaublastoma (brain cancer).
The ongoing research will be funded by Tel Aviv-listed cannabis producer Cannbit, who will invest an initial $400,000 towards the studies, and an additional $2,000,000 for a commercial drug license. Former Israeli Air Force commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu is the chairman of Cannbit and Mechoulam is currently operating as head of Cannbit’s scientific advisory committee.
In exchange, Cannbit will receive rights to sell this medicine for the duration of its patent – 25 years. The rest of the partners will get 13% from all future revenue from the research and the sale of the medicine, as well as any future intellectual property stemming from this research.
The Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, Yissum, owns the IP for the results of the preliminary study. Ownership will eventually be transferred to Cannbit for the duration of the patent. Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem and Sheba Medical Center will also collaborate on the study.
Mechoulam, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Hebrew University, is known as the father of medical cannabis since discovering endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids back in 1964. He and his research group were the first to isolate the major plant cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerol and many others.
Check back with us for more updates on these groundbreaking cannabis studies. We also have an exclusive interview with Mechoulam where he describes more details about his future research plans.