RIP: Everette L. May

August 12, 2008

2005 Winter Newsletter
Medicinal chemist Dr. Everette Lee May has passed away at the age of 94. A newsletter dated Winter 2005 from the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the Virginia Commonwealth University overviewed Dr. May’s accomplishments and career on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

On Dr. May’s career:

During his career at NIH, Dr. May held the ranks of associate chemist (1953-77), scientist-director and chief, section of medicinal chemistry (1960-77). In 1977, we were fortunate to lure Dr. May to Virginia Commonwealth University as professor of pharmacology and toxicology and medicinal chemistry. He continues to work closely with students, faculty and staff of both departments. In the course of his career, he has trained approximately 30 postdoctoral fellows and continues his role as a teacher and mentor to both young and older investigators.

Work on anti-malarial compounds:

Dr. May was recruited to join [the Committee on Drug Addiction at the National
Institutes of Health] in December of 1941. Because of the war, attention was diverted from drug addiction to the more pressing medical need of malaria. It was during these years that Dr. May made many important contributions to the field of anti-malarials. Indeed, one of his compounds later proved to be highly useful in Vietnam in the treatment of resistant falciparum strains.

Contributions to understanding drug abuse:

A few examples of his contributions in these areas include: his early studies on methadone, which led to the first synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of l-alpha-acetylmethadol [LAAM, an approved therapeutic drug- Ed.], introducing the benzomorphan series of opioid agonists, including pentazocine; a series of potent cannabinoid analgesics; the preparation of (+)-nicotine and some constrained analogs. In addition, he greatly facilitated the NIH synthesis of the unnatural (+)-isomers of morphine, naloxone and their analogs.

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