Bernard Meunier Technological Innovation Liliane Bettencourt (2014-2015)


Bernard Meunier is currently Emeritus Director of Research at the CNRS in Toulouse (Laboratoire de Chimie de Coordination) and Distinguished Professor at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Technology of Guangdong in Guangzhou (R. P. China).

After a first thesis at the University of Montpellier with Robert Corriu (November 1973) on the catalytic activation of Grignard Reagents and a position as Assistant Professor, Bernard Meunier obtained in 1973 a CNRS position at the Natural Product Chemistry Institute. He obtained in 1977 a Doctorat d’État from the University of Paris XI-Orsay with Hugh Felkin, dedicated on the preparation and the properties of Inorgano-Grignard Reagents. After two years in crystallography including one at the University of Oxford (1977-1978), he decided in 1979 to join the Laboratoire de chimie de coordination du CNRS in Toulouse to study the different aspects of chemical or biological oxidations, including metal-catalyzed processes and the modeling of metalloenzymes such as cytochrome P450, peroxidases, catalase and chloroperoxidase (biomimetic oxidations). At his arrival in Toulouse, he also collaborated with Claude Paoletti on the mechanism of action of ellipticine derivatives.

The research of Bernard Meunier covered various fields such as the use of bleach of potassium monopersulfate as oxygen atom donors in catalytic epoxidation and hydroxylation reactions, the oxidation of antitumor agents catalyzed by peroxidases, the cleavage of DNA by bleomycin or metalloporphyrins, the catalytic oxidation of chlorinated aromatics, the mechanism of action of isoniazid or artemisinin, the synthesis of new antimalarial or antischistosomal agents with a dual mode of action and also the design of specific copper chelators as potential drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bernard Meunier is the author of more than 375 publications (including twenty book chapters) and 32 patents. For the last thirty years, he has been in the list of the ten most-cited French chemists. Bernard Meunier has been an Associate Professor at the École Polytechnique at Palaiseau (1993-2006) and President of the CNRS (2004-2006).

In 2000, he also created a start-up company, Palumed, for the development of new antimalarial agents (trioxaquines), antibiotics and specific copper chelators (Alzheimer’s disease). He has been President of the Coordination Chemistry Division of the French Chemical Society and, since 2007, Executive President of the CiRFC Foundation (devoted to Chemistry and its frontiers) of the University of Strasbourg. He has been Editor of the Bulletin de la Société Chimique de France and of the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry and members of several scientific journals.

Bernard Meunier received the Silver Medal of the CNRS (1991), the Prize of the Coordination Chemistry Division of the French Chemical Society (1994), the Prize Clavel and the Berthelot Medal of the French Academy of Sciences (1997), the Prize Descartes-Huygens of the Royal Academy of the Netherlands (2001), the Prize Von Humboldt-Gay Lussac (2002), the Prize Le Bel of the French Chemical Society (2007) and the Gold Medal of the Société d’Encouragement au Progrès (2009). He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry since 2014.

In 1999, Bernard Meunier has been elected Member of the French Academy of Sciences. He is also Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences (2005) and Associate Member of the French National Academy of Pharmacy (2013). He is Knight of the Legion of Honor (2006) and since 2013, Bernard Meunier is Vice-president of the French Academy of Sciences.

Since 2012, the research activities of Bernard Meunier are mainly focused on the preparation of specific copper reagents designed for the regulation of the homeostasis of copper within the brain of patients having Alzheimer’s disease. These works have been initiated in 2004 at the CNRS in Toulouse and have been patented (CNRS-Palumed application) in the USA, Canada and Europe. One of these chelators (PA1637) is able to inhibit the loss of episodic memory in mice that received an icv injection of the Aβ1-42 amyloid (It should ne noted that the inverse peptide does not induce such loss of memory). This original, efficient and fast model for the evaluation of drug-candidates for Alzheimer’s disease is different than the classical models used for the last twenty for the AD drug screening that are all based on transgenic mice. We have to keep in mind that AD is not a mono- or a digenic disease. The absence of diversified animal models for the selection of AD drug-candidates might be at the origin of all failure observed for the last ten years when these drug-candidates enter in clinical trials.