The famend Harvey Prize goes to Raphael Mechoulam – the “godfather” of hashish analysis


One of the most prestigious scientific prizes, Technion’s Harvey Prize for Chemical Engineering and Medicine, went to Professor Raphael Mechoulam – the “godfather” of modern cannabis medicine.

Professor Raphael Mechoulam of the School of Pharmacology at the Medical Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of two winners of the prestigious Harvey Prize for his groundbreaking research in the world of medicinal cannabis. His studies in this area have given the whole world a new perspective on cannabis as a medicinal herb rather than just a recreational drug.

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About Raphael Mechoulam

Prof. Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria in 1930 and studied chemical engineering there. 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 at the Weizmann Institute and in 1985 became a professor at the Hebrew University.

It was his curiosity about cannabis as a medicinal plant that led him to a police station in 1963, where he received his first sample – 5 kilos of hashish – for research. Mechoulam then developed a relationship with Israeli Ministry of Health officials who gave him permission to continue sourcing cannabis products for his studies over the next several decades. He casually summed it up: “I always went to the Ministry of Health, they would give me a letter to the police, go to the police and have coffee with them, take the hash I needed and that was it.”

He is the first scientist to isolate plant cannabinoids, first THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), then CBD (cannabidiol), and he is also the first to discover the human endocannabinoid system, a complex cell signaling system made up of receptors found throughout our territory occur body. These receptors respond to plant cannabinoids to treat numerous conditions that we suffer from. All living things except insects have an endocannabinoid system.

His research led to the development of many safe and natural treatments for more disorders and diseases than we can count, particularly epilepsy, mental health, MS, and pain management. The two leading cannabinoids – THC and CBD – are used in branded drugs today – Marinol, a drug used to treat nausea that uses a synthetic THC compound; and Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved drug to use natural CBD as a main ingredient to treat rare forms of epilepsy.

For his many achievements in the field of cannabis research, Prof. Mechoulam has received much recognition and a variety of prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize for Exact Science – Chemistry (2000) and the Kolthoff Prize for Chemistry from the Technion. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences. In 2014, Prof. Mechoulam was named one of the “50 Most Influential Jews in the World” by the Jerusalem Post.

Professor Joseph DeSimone

As mentioned earlier, Mechoulam was just one of two winners of the Technion Harvey Prize. The other winner was Professor Joe DeSimone, who has made significant contributions in the fields of materials science, chemistry, polymer science, nanomedicine, and 3D printing.

DeSimone has also made important breakthroughs in the use of supercritical carbon dioxide to make fluoropolymers, which have many medical applications. DeSimone has published more than 350 articles in scientific journals and holds more than 200 patents. In addition, DeSimone is credited with creating major innovations in the field of precision medicine, such as particle replication in non-wetting templates and in medical technology, including the continuous creation of fluid interfaces.

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Beth Edmonds