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Bernard Belleau.

The Faculty of Science/Senate at McGill records with sorrow and regret the passing of Bernard Belleau, FCIC, on the 4th of September, 1989.

Born in Montreal in 1925, Belleau attended the Universite de Montreal obtaining his BSc degree in chemistry in 1947 and MSc degree in biochemistry in 1948. He then came to McGill University where he completed his PhD degree in 1950.

After several years of postdoctoral experience in the US he returned to Canada in 1955 taking an assistant professor position at l'Universite Laval and began his life-long research in medicinal chemistry. In 1958, he moved to the University of Ottawa as an associate professor of chemistry. There he rose to become professor of biochemistry and, for a time, the vice-dean of research. His research in drug-receptor interaction and the development of novel non-narcotic analgesic earned him international recognition.

In 1971, Belleau returned to McGill as professor of chemistry where he continued his outstanding research through application of physical chemical principles to the understanding of drug action at the molecular level. In 1987 at 62, Belleau, in his continuing quest for the creation of an indigenous Canadian pharmaceutical industry, moved once again to the Institut Armand Frappier to take up the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry. Up to the very last moment of his life, Belleau was ceaseless in his dedication to bringing new drugs to the world. His last project was the initiation of the clinical testing of a new compound conceived by him for the treatment of AIDS.

His research was always elegant and perceptive, bringing his considerable expertise in chemical synthesis and stereochemistry to tackle important problems in biochemical, processes. He was also immensely practical and successful in bringing new drugs to reality. He played a key role in the creation of Bristol Laboratories of Canada in Montreal (Candiac) where he and his colleagues conceived, synthesized and developed a potent non-narcotic, non-addictive analgesic, butorphanol (Stadol). Some prominent clinicians have considered butorphanol to be the best analgesic drug created thus far and to constitute a landmark in medicine. In addition, his contributions to the areas of antibiotics, antitumour agents and the CNS field have all left their marks. He will also be remembered for his fundamental contributions to organic chemistry in the development of the Belleau-Fujimoto annulation reaction.

It is not surprising that Belleau had received many honours in his lifetime. He was awarded the Merck Sharpe and Dohme Award for organic chemistry in 1961, the American Chemical Society Award in Medicinal Chemistry in 1976, the Prix Marie-Victorin of Quebec in 1978, the McLaughlin Medal of the Royal Society of Canada and the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal both in 1979 and the Heinz Lehmann Award in neuropsychopharmacology in 1984. He received honorary degrees from Dalhousie, Laval and Memorial University. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1968 and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981.

To all his friends and colleagues, Belleau will be remembered for his wit, his elegance, his perceptive mind and his intensity in the pursuit of science. The world scientific community has lost one of its brilliant stars. As we record his passing with sorrow, I should like to move that the Faculty of Science/Senate express its deepest sympathy to his wife Pierrette and his children Marc, Francois and Francine.
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Author:Chan, T.H.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:obituary
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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