It’s a homecoming for Michael S. Wolfe who in Fall 2016 returned to the University of Kansas as the Mathias P. Mertes Professor of Medicinal Chemistry.
“I’m happy to be back at KU and at the Medicinal Chemistry Department after studying as a graduate student and as a postdoc here many years ago,” said Wolfe. “This is an opportunity to expand my current work and get into new areas beyond neurological diseases.”
Wolfe says he is honored to be named the first Mertes professor. The position pays tribute to the renowned Medicinal Chemistry professor who taught at KU from 1960 to 1989. Wolfe says Mertes was one of his teachers and mentors while he earned his M.S. (1986) and Ph.D. (1990) in Medicinal Chemistry under the direction of Ronald Borchardt.
Wolfe said while he was a graduate student his laboratory was across the hall from Mertes’ office. He said Mertes aided him once when he had a water faucet break off in the laboratory. Wolfe said, “Water was gushing out, flooding the whole lab. We were like two little Dutch boys trying to stop up a leaking dike, and we were both soaked by the time we stopped it.”
Wolfe said Mertes seemed to relish helping out and getting involved, and they eventually found the water cutoff valve hidden behind one of the laboratory’s hoods.
Chair Tom Prisinzano said, “We are excited to have Mike back at KU. His research into Alzheimer’s disease is internationally renowned and it’s great to welcome a former Jayhawk home.”
Wolfe received his B.S. in chemistry in 1984 from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. After his training at KU, he served a second postdoctoral stint at the National Institutes of Health (cell biology). He joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee in Memphis in 1994. In 1999, he moved to Harvard Medical School, where his work focused on understanding the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and identifying effective approaches for pharmacological intervention. Prior to his return to KU, he held the title of Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Awards for his work include the Sato Memorial International Award in bioorganic and medicinal chemistry from the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan (2003), the MetLife Award for Biomedical Research (2008), a Zenith Fellows Award from the Alzheimer’s Association (2008), and the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology (2009).