March 10, 2023 — American Friends of the Hebrew University today announces the passing of the world pioneer in cannabis research, Prof. Raphael Mechoulam. Known as the “Father of Cannabis Research,” Mechoulam died in Israel at age 92.
A professor at 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 says, “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.”
“The world has lost a giant in the scientific research community and a pioneer in the medical cannabis field,” says Joshua Rednik, American Friends of the Hebrew University CEO. “We send our condolences to Prof. Mechoulam’s family. The Hebrew University has become a global leader in cannabis research thanks to his efforts; his significant contributions will live on in future research and exciting new discoveries in Israel and beyond.”
Since the inception of his research in the 1960s, Professor Mechoulam has been nominated for over 25 academic awards, including the Heinrich Wieland Prize (2004), an honorary doctorate from Complutense University (2006), the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – Chemistry (2000), the Israel Chemical Society Prize for excellence in research (2009) and EMET Prize in Exact Sciences – Chemistry (2012). 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.
Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria in 1930 and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1949, where he later studied chemistry. He received his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute (1958), with a thesis on the chemistry of steroids. After postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in 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.