Murray Goodman

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Obituary Murray Goodman (1928-2004)


murray goodman

When Murray Goodman died on June, 1st in Munich after a short but severe illness during a scientific visit to Europe, one of the grand pioneers of peptide chemistry passed away. Murrays sudden and unexpected death is a very cruel and tragic loss for the worldwide scientific community of bioorganic chemistry and structural biology, and particularly of peptide chemistry. He was a very generous and extremely gifted man whose strenght was to tackle essential biological problems at molecular level with simple synthetic systems and to draw insightful conclusions from them.

Murray Goodman was born July, 6, 1928 in Brooklyn, into an immigrant family from Krivoizera, Ukraine. His early strong interest in scientific and cultural matters led him to higher education where he received a bachelor of science from Brooklyn College in 1950. He earned his doctorate three years later from the University of California, Berkeley, working on the use of isotopes as tracers to understand the mechanisms of photosynthesis with Melvin Calvin, who won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Drawn by the challenges of the new emerging field of peptide chemistry, Dr. Goodman undertook postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Professor John C. Sheehan, and at Cambridge University, England, with Lord Alexander Todd where he was involved in research on synthetic nucleotides and peptide natural products. In 1956, he joined the faculty of the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn where he became director of the Polytechnics Polymer Research Institute. In 1970, Dr. Goodman joined the faculty of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), as a professor of chemistry. He remained there ever since, serving as chair of the Department of Chemistry for six years, and was recently honored with the establishment of an endowed professorship in his name, the Goodman Chair in Chemistry. Murray Goodman had a long and distinguished career in the field of peptide science with over 500 original research papers to his credit in peptide synthesis, optically-active polymers, stereochemistry of polymers and biopolymers, conformational studies of poly-a-amino acids, conformational analysis of bioactive peptides, peptidomimetics for drug design and new biomaterials. His exceptional scientific productivity has been recognized worldwide by numerous awards and honors. In particular, his achievements in peptide science were honoured with the Scoffone Medal, University of Padova (1980), the Humboldt-Foundation Award, Germany (1986), the Pierce Award, American Peptide Society (1989), the Max-Bergmann Medal (1991) and the American Chemical Society Ralph Hirschmann Award for Peptide Chemistry (1997)

Early in his career, Murray Goodman developed the stepwise approach for the synthesis of linear oligopeptides as models of protein conformations.[1] He uncovered the active monomer mechanism of the N-carboxyanhydride polymerization and analyzed the detailed mechanism of racemization in peptide synthesis.[2] But he also pioneered the use of circular dichroism to study conformations of peptides in solution and was one of the first to recognize the potentials of NMR techniques for this purpose.[3] Murray Goodman made fundamental contributions to the development of these spectroscopic methods which are now so widely used in analyzing secondary structures of proteins. He has been a forerunner of the basic concept of combining synthetic challenges with structural analysis and bioassays for understanding the crosstalks of molecules at molecular level in all the physiological and pathophysiological events of life. Despite his increased interest in chemoreception he continued to develop new synthetic methods that are now widely used as standard procedures. To mention examples, he introduced the urethane-protected N-carboxyanhydrides, the diurethane triflyl guanidines as new guanidinylation reagents, and the very efficient DEBT reagent for peptide bond formation. By addressing his major focus on peptidomimetic structures for drug design, he proposed new strategies such as the retro-inverso peptide approach, the use of conformationally restricted amino acid analogs and various peptide cyclization modes. In this context, he elaborated syntheses of novel amino acid derivatives that may serve as useful new building blocks in peptidomimetic research programms.[4] Similarly, cyclic lanthionine structures were produced in his laboratory as candidates for new drugs with highly selective opioid-activity.[5] With his most recent studies on new scaffolds for assembly of triple helical structures and expansion of this concept to dendritic collagen-like molecules he has successfully opened the field of new biomaterials.[6] In addition to his brilliant research work, Murray Goodman deserves admiration and gratitude for his intensive editorial activities. As editor-in-chief of Biopolymers since 1963 and founding editor of Peptide Science he has created forums where chemistry meets structural research and biology at the frontier of science, and as editor-in-chief of the five-volume Houben-Weyl Synthesis of Peptides and Peptidomimetics (2002-2003) he leaves as a legacy a treatise on the state of the art in the field to the peptide community. Those of us who knew him are saddened by his passing away and deeply feel the great loss of a dear friend and colleague, but will always remember him as an inspiring teacher and mentor, as an enthusiastic scientist and as the Pre des Peptides, but also and foremost as a Mensch.
  1. M. Goodman, E. E. Schmitt, D. A. Yphantis, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1962, 84, 1283-1288.
  2. M. Goodman, W. J. McGahren, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1965, 87, 3028-3029.
  3. M. Goodman; A. S. Verdini; C. Toniolo; W. D. Phillips; F. A. Bovey, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 1969, 64, 444-450.
  4. J. R. Del Valle, M. Goodman, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2002, 41, 1600-1602.
  5. a) Y. Rew, S. Malkmus, C. Svensson, T. L. Yaksh, N. N. Chung, P. W. Schiller, J. A. Cassel, R. N. DeHaven, M. Goodman, J. Med. Chem. 45, 3746-3754;
    b) US Patents 6,268,339 (7/2001) and 6,673769 (1/2004).
  6. J. Kwak, A. De Capua, E. Locardi, M. Goodman, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 14085-14091.