Kálmán Medzihradszky (1928-2019), In Memoriam

Kálmán Medzihradszky

Professor Kálmán Medzihradszky, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 92, of Budapest, Hungary our fellow chemist colleague and friend who made significant contributions to the fields of peptide science and bioorganic chemistry research, died 20 May, 2019. Kálmán is survived by his wife Hédi, his daughter Zsófia and his son Dénes, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial services were held on Thursday, June 20 and Friday, June 21, 2019 in Budapest.

Dr. Kálmán Medzihradszky (Rákoscsaba, 20 April, 1928) during his scientific carrier was very much engaged with peptide research and establishment of correlation between structure and function of bioactive entities. Kálmán studied and completed his MSc in chemistry (1950) and received PhD (1967) at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, where he was later appointed to professorship of organic chemistry (1971) and to “doctor et professor honoris causa” after retirement (2003). Kálmán was a student, then close collaborator of Professor Victor Bruckner at the Department of Organic Chemistry on structure elucidation of the natural polyglutamic acids (capsular substance of B. anthracis) and on the discovery of the intramolecular trans-peptidation of glutamic acid peptides [Naturwissenschaften 41 (1954) 450, Naturwissenschaften 42 (1955) 96.]

In order to understand biological activity of peptide hormones, in a fruitful collaboration with Dr. Lajos Kisfaludy (Richter G. Chemical Works, Budapest), Dr. Sándor Bajusz (Institute of Drug Research (GYKI), later IVAX Institute of Drug Research) and Dr. Kálmán Medzihradszky (Eötvös Loránd University, ELTE, Budapest) the first chemical synthesis of human corticotropin was performed [Totalsynthese des menschlichen Corticotropins (alpha-ACTH). Acta Chim. Acad. Sci. Hung. 52 (1967) 335).]

From the 70’s Kálmán was very much involved in studies of the chemistry and activity of alpha-melanotropin (MSH), labelled derivatives, and provided experimental proofs for the existence of multiple active sites in alpha-melanotropin [FEBS Letters 67 (1976) 45)]. Dr. Medzihradszky and his colleagues achieved the synthesis of a new set of receptor specific opioid peptide agonists/antagonists and conjugates for the affinity labelling of opioid receptors, as well as a group of alkylating derivatives of peptides as potential antitumor agents [Life Sci. 32 (1983) 2777, Neurochemical Research 10 (1985) 627, Cancer Chemother. Pharmacol. 16 (1986) 129. Int. J. Cancer 56 (1994) 129, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm. 265 (1999) 513.]

In addition to the scientific achievements outlined briefly, but not completely, the key role of Dr. Medzihradszky in the development of Hungarian peptide research has to be emphasized here. From the very beginning he was an active and well-recognized member of the peptide community. He guided the activity of peptide chemists as the Chairman of the Hungarian Peptide Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1970-1990), and educated younger generations at the University. Dr. Medzihradszky was the first National Representative in the Committee of European Peptide Chemists (1958-1990) and acted as a founding member of the Executive Committee (1988-1992) of the European Peptide Society (EPS). In 1996 together with Dr. Sándor Bajusz he established the “Foundation for Hungarian Peptide and Protein Research” providing help to young scientists in the field.

Among other distinctions [National Prize of the Hungarian Government (1970), election as corresponding (1982) and full (1990) member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences] he was the recipient of the Heyrovsky Golden Medal (Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1982), the Josef Rudinger Memorial Award (EPS, 2002) and of the “Pro Service to the European Peptide Society” (2014).

Kálmán was a sovereign intellectual with critical, but positive thinking, loving family, collection of cacti and stamps, companions, and love of history and life. But above all, he intended to move things, not only in science, ahead….

Ferenc Hudecz
Resarch Group of Peptid Chemistry, Hungarian Academy of Sciences,
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest