Edward E. Smissman Memorial Lecture Series

The Edward E. Smissman Lecture Series in Medicinal Chemistry was established in 2004 as an extension of the the Edward E. and Clarine F. Smissman Memorial Fund established in 1974. By sponsoring lectures of outstanding merit and achievement in chemistry and biology, the KU Department of Medicinal Chemistry honors and preserves the influence and tradition of Edward and Clare Smissman.

About Edward E. Smissman

2021 Edward E. Smissman Memorial Lecturer

Phil Baran profile image

Phil Baran, Ph.D.

Darlene Shirley Chair in Chemistry, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute - California Campus


Phil Baran was born in 1977 in Denville, New Jersey. He received his B.S. in chemistry from NYU in 1997, his Ph.D. at The Scripps Research Institute in 2001, and from 2001-2003 he was an NIH-postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. His independent career began at Scripps in the summer of 2003. He currently holds the Darlene Shiley Chair in Chemistry. Phil has published over 180 scientific articles and has been the recipient of several ACS awards such as the Corey (2015), Pure Chemistry (2010), Fresenius (2006), and Nobel Laureate Signature (2003), and several international distinctions such as the Hirata Gold Medal and Mukaiyama Prize (Japan), the RSC award in Synthesis (UK), and the Sackler Prize (Israel). In 2013 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, in 2015 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2016 he was awarded the Blavatnik National Award, and most recently, in 2017, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He has delivered hundreds of lectures around the world and consults for numerous companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (since late 2005), Boehringer-Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, DuPont and TEVA, and is a scientific advisory board member for Eisai, Abide, and AsymChem. In 2016 he was appointed as an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He co-founded Sirenas Marine Discovery (2012) and Vividion Therapeutics (2016) and in 2013 he co-authored The Portable Chemist’s Consultant, an interactive book published on the iBooks store along with his graduate class in Heterocyclic Chemistry (viewable for free by anyone on iTunes University). Outside of the lab, Phil enjoys spending time with his wife Ana and three young children (Lucia, Leah, and Manuel).


Scientific Lecture: "Electrifying Chemistry"
, 10:30 a.m., Zoom


There can be no more noble undertaking than the invention of medicines. Chemists that make up the engine of drug discovery are facing incredible pressure to do more with less in a highly restrictive and regulated process that is destined for failure more than 95% of the time. How can academic chemists working on the synthesis of natural products help these heroes of drug discovery – those in the pharmaceutical industry? With selected examples from our lab, this talk will focus on that question highlighting interesting findings in fundamental chemistry and new approaches to scalable chemical synthesis. With selected examples from our lab, this talk will focus on that question highlighting interesting findings in fundamental chemistry and new approaches to scalable chemical synthesis.

Public Lecture and Award Presentation: "Simplicity and Ideality in Synthesis"
, 5:30 p.m., Zoom

Previous Smissman Memorial Lecturers

2021-Phil Baran-Scripps Research Institute
2018-Craig W. Lindsley-Vanderbilt University
2016-James Wells-University of California San Francisco
2014-Barbara Imperiali-Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2012-David W.C. MacMillan-Princeton University
2010-Brian K. Kobilka-Stanford University
2008-Ronald C. Breslow-Columbia University
2006-Garland R. Marshall-Washington University School of Medicine
2004-Daniel H. Rich-University of Wisconsin-Madison
2002-Paul S. Anderson-Bristol-Myers Squibb
2000-Dale L. Boger-The Scripps Research Institute
1998-Ralph F. Hirschmann-University of Pennsylvania
1996-Dieter Seebach-Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
1994-Stephen J. Benkovic-The Pennsylvania State University
1992-Stephen Hanessian-Université dé Montréal
1990-Jeremy R. Knowles-Harvard University
1989-K. Barry Sharpless-Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1986-Christopher T. Walsh-Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1984-Carl Dejerassi-Stanford University
1981-Pedro Cuatrecasas-Burroughs Wellcome Co.
1979-Koji Nakanishi-Columbia University
1977-Julius Axelrod-Institute on Mental Health, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Evaluation
1976-Sir Derek H. R. Barton-Imperial College of Science and Technology

About Edward E. Smissman

Sketch of Edward E. SmissmanEdward E. Smissman was born on July 29, 1925, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Upon his graduation from East St. Louis High School in 1941, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. After 3.5 years of service he began his academic training, earning his B.Sc. in 1948 from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1952 with Eugene van Tamelen.

In early 1952, Ed and his wife, Clare, moved from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois, where he assumed his first academic position as Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. In 1955, Ed accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin, where he began to build a graduate program in Medicinal Chemistry. Ed's wide range of scientific interests were evident in the variety of research activities he carried out. He not only continued his doctoral research on the isolation, structural studies, and synthesis of natural products, but also began working in the area of organic reaction mechanisms and aspects of stereochemistry. While at Wisconsin , he began his investigations of host-plant-resistance factors which led to the development of his program in insect chemistry. He also initiated his studies of the mechanism and stereochemistry of the Prins reaction and the quasi-Favorskii rearrangement. In addition to these long-range interests, a variety of other problems, including the stereospecific syntheses of shikimic and quinic acids, were studied. Such diversity of research activity created a stimulating and challenging atmosphere in Ed's laboratories.

In 1960, Ed and Clare moved to The University of Kansas, where he became Professor and Chair of Medicinal Chemistry. He continued his work in natural products and synthetic chemistry, but he became intensely interested in conformational aspects of autonomic receptor sites, and a series of papers began to appear describing work in this area. In 1964, Ed was named University Distinguished Professor.

Ed was an innovator of interdisciplinary research at KU. He had the unique ability to be able to bring together individuals in different disciplines and create an environment of cooperation and creativity. His success in this capacity was demonstrated by the Health Sciences Advancement Award, which the National Institutes of Health granted to The University of Kansas in 1969. This grant, largely the result of Ed's efforts, resulted in a significant increase in the number of faculty positions in chemical and biological science at KU and in the construction of McCollum Laboratories, a building used as a center of interdisciplinary research at KU. At the time of his death, Ed was spearheading a second proposal that led to the establishment of the Center for Biomedical Research, the forerunner of the Higuchi Biosciences Center, and the construction of the Smissman Research Laboratory building.

Ed's energy was limitless, his enthusiasm boundless, and his devotion to his students, colleagues, and science was infinite. He was author or coauthor of over 100 research publications covering a wide variety of topics in medicinal chemistry. He participated directly in the training of over 70 Ph.D. students, and 20 postdoctoral fellows, and influenced the lives of many others. It is impossible to overestimate the extent of his influence. He had colleagues and friends all over the world whose lives were enriched by knowing him.

Ed felt a strong responsibility to be active in his professional associations. He served first as vice-chair and chair of the long-range planning committee of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and became chair of the Division in 1959. He was General Chair of the Sixth National Medicinal Chemistry Symposium, Counselor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry for many years, and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry, and the American Chemical Society Advances in Chemistry series. He also took an active role in the Medicinal Chemistry Section of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In 1972-74, he served as chair of the IUPAC Committee on the International Education of Medicinal Chemists. Because of his extraordinary talents as a researcher and teacher, Ed was in great demand as a lecturer throughout the world at conferences and universities and as a consultant at industrial laboratories. In addition, he spent many years as a member of National Institutes of Health study sections and panels.

Ed was a frequent speaker at Gordon Conferences, American Chemical Society meetings and Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences meetings. Furthermore, he presented numerous lectures at universities and industrial laboratories all over the world. His comprehensive knowledge of medicinal chemistry also made him attractive as a consultant to industry. In addition, he spent many years as a member of National Institutes of Health study sections and panels.

Ed died unexpectedly on Sunday, July 14, 1974. He was not quite forty-nine years old. His qualities as a teacher, a scientist and a human being inspired generations of students and affected all who knew him. His influence will not soon be forgotten. The atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill which Ed fostered at KU will remain as his greatest memorial.

Clarine Feir was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a bachelor's degree at The Ohio State University. She and Ed were married in 1951 while Ed was in graduate school. They were second parents to all the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the department. They entertained often in their home (shared with Hagen, their handsome German Shepherd), and Clare accompanied Ed on most of his travels. She obtained a law degree at KU in 1966 and practiced law in Lawrence and Baldwin City where she also was on the faculty at Baker University. After Ed's death she earned an MBA degree at KU and moved to Winter Park, Florida where she remarried (William Robinson), practiced law and taught business law part-time at Rollins College. Following her death in 2004, the Smissman Memorial Fund was renamed as the Edward E. and Clarine F. Smissman Memorial Fund.

It was Clare's wish that, as a lasting tribute to a great man, the Edward E. Smissman Lecture Series in Medicinal Chemistry be established. By sponsoring lectures of outstanding merit and achievement in chemistry and biology, it is hoped that the influence and tradition of both Ed and Clare Smissman will be preserved.

The drawing of Ed at the top is a reproduction of an original drawing by George Reunitz, the brother of Peter Reunitz, a 1974 graduate of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.