News: In Memoriam – Jean-Louis IMBACH (1936-2018)


Jean-Louis Imbach, professor emeritus of chemistry at the Université de Montpellier (France) sadly passed away on Saturday April 07, 2018.

Jean-Louis Imbach earned his engineer diploma at the «Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier» in 1960, then his Ph.D. at the Université de Montpellier, in 1964, under the supervision of Professor Robert Jacquier. After pursuing his postdoctoral studies, first in Great Britain with Professor Katritzky in 1965 and then in US with Professor Crowwel in 1966, Jean-Louis Imbach was appointed as assistant professor, in 1968, to Benin (formerly Dahomey, a country in West Africa), where he contributed to the foundation of the University of the Republic of Benin.

Back in France, he became full professor at the Université de Montpellier (1971), where he established the Laboratoire de Chimie Bioorganique and was its Director until January 1999. Before retirement, the University of Montpellier honored his many years of service by giving him the title of Professor Emeritus, in 2001.

During his long and illustrious career in Montpellier, Jean-Louis Imbach was interested in the design, synthesis and study of the constituents and analogs of nucleic acids, mainly of nucleos(t)ides and oligonucleotides, and their prodrugs. Jean-Louis Imbach was co-author of more than 600 publications and 40 patents, and he has supervised about a hundred Ph.D. students.

The number of Honors, academic responsibilities and other scientific activities of Jean-Louis Imbach are too many to be listed here. As an example, he was (with Leroy B. Townsend professor at the University of Michigan)  the «father», 40 years ago, of the International Roundtable of Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids (http://is3na.org), a scientific congress which brings every two years, alternately in US and in other counties, the research community working in the field of nucleic acids and their constituents.

Jean-Louis Imbach was also (with Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, former professor at the University of Birmingham, Alabama) the co-founder in 1998 of Idenix Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company devoted to the discovery of new drugs against viral infections. The research works carried out by Idenix in collaboration with scientists of the University of Montpellier and of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) resulted in the development, and then the marketing of telbivudine in US (TYZEKA®, October 2006) and in the rest of the world (SEBIVO®, April 2007), as a drug for a once-a-day oral treatment for patients with chronic hepatitis B.

In addition to his professional activities, Jean-Louis Imbach had other fields of interest, in particular Jazz music and the sport community. Thus, he was a respectable clarinetist, he was a scientist with a tuneful and musical hobby; he was one of the former Presidents of the Montpellier Hérault Rugby, he was a scientist with an egg- shaped passion.

Jean-Louis Imbach will remain in our memory as a passionate and creative scientist, with a high level of curiosity and productivity, and as a person, a very generous man. He leaves behind him his wife named Michèle, a daughter, two sons, and six grandchildren.

GOSSELIN Gilles, Ph.D.

Former CNRS Research Director, Former Idenix Senior Scientist Fellow