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This summer three of the world’s most distinguished neurochemists died; each was a member of the Department during their outstanding scientific careers.

Professor Leslie Iversen (1937-2020)

We were very sad to learn of the death on 30 July of Professor Les Iversen CBE FRS, our Visiting Professor of Neuropharmacology in the Department for a quarter of a century. Les was a wonderful colleague and friend of the Department who will be sorely missed. He made many seminal discoveries during his career, such as the characterization of neurotransmitter uptake mechanisms, which paved the way for the development of new class of drug in widespread use today, the anti-depressants.  He also pioneered the neuropeptide transmitter field, helping develop our understanding of the mechanisms of neurotransmitter action. His career straddled both academic pharmacology and Pharma. He was Director of the MRC Unit of Neurochemical Pharmacology at Cambridge from 1970-1983, and then founding Director of The Neuroscience Research Centre, set up by Merck Sharp & Dohme Ltd, at Terlings Park, Harlow, from 1984-1995. He held several notable public appointments, such as the Chairmanship of The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

We are very grateful for his dedicated service over the last two decades as Visiting Professor of Neuropharmacology in the Department. We greatly valued his insights and advice. We are also indebted to him for stimulating generations of students in his popular lectures on cannabinoid pharmacology. His wonderful friendship will be greatly missed, and we extend our deepest condolences to his wife Sue, who has also been a great friend of our Department during her time as Professor of Psychology and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Oxford University.

An autobiographical sketch is available at:Leslie Iversen - Society for Neuroscience

See this fundraising page set up in Professor Iversen's memory, in aid of the Parkinson's Disease Society: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ksfjw-in-memory-of-professor-leslie-iversen

Professor Geoffrey Burnstock (1929-2020)

Professor Geoffrey Burnstock AC FRS, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy at UCL, died on 2 June. Geoff pioneered the field of purinergic pharmacology. At the start of his career, he worked with Professor Edith Bullbring FRS in the Department in the late 1950s, studying the pharmacology of the autonomic nerve transmitters noradrenaline and acetylcholine that each act to control smooth muscle, before moving to Melbourne University in Australia where he first introduced the idea that ATP may also act as an autonomic transmitter, but as a co-transmitter. This was a concept that dominated the rest of his quite exceptional career. The importance of purinergic receptors in many aspects of bodily function in health and disease is now widely recognised. Our resulting understanding of these membrane receptors has enabled the invention of a number of important drugs, most notably clopidogrel, used as an anti-coagulant in cardiovascular disease. Geoff was a man of tremendous energy and enthusiasm, reflected in his quite remarkable scientific output of over 1400 papers, reviews and books and the fact he only finally retired from his scientific endeavour in 2018. Link to Guardian obituary: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jun/19/geoffrey-burnstock-obituary

Professor Oleh  Hornykiewicz  (1926-2020)

Professor Oleh Hornykiewicz, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at Toronto University died on 26 May. He made the seminal discovery that Parkinson's disease was due to dopamine deficiency in the brain. This was an enormous step forward and enabled him to play a major role in the development of L-dopa as a therapy for the disorder, an approach still in use today and which has transformed the lives of millions of suffers of this awful disease around the world.  He worked with Professor Hugh Blaschko in the Department of Pharmacology in 1956, and it was Blaschko who suggested he study dopamine. Link to Daily Telegraph obituary: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2020/06/01/professor-oleh-hornykiewicz-biochemist-whose-work-led-drug-parkinsons/

 

 

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