On October 15 of this year, we all lost an exceptional person and scientist; I lost a collaborator and very close friend. Leroy was truly a renaissance man who –as Bob Sidwell once said- always had a twinkle in his eye. He was dedicated to excellence in all aspects of his wide-ranging career, including work with the International Society for Antiviral Research. Further, and importantly, he was dedicated to his students, employees, and collaborators but most of all he was dedicated to his family.
I first met Leroy at a New York Academy of Sciences conference entitled ‘‘Chemistry, Biology, and Clinical Uses of NucleosideAnalogs’’ on September 4, 1974. I was sitting at a counter in a small New York City restaurant having breakfast on the first day of the meeting when a very friendly extrovert with long dark hair and beard sat down next to me and asked if I were attending the conference. After introducing ourselves and chatting for a few minutes, I realized this Townsend guy was one of the invited speakers and that he must be somewhat well known -even though I had never heard of him! But it didn’t take long for me to realize this friendly chemist was already quite well known and respected for his considerable work in heterocyclic and nucleoside chemistry.
We maintained a little contact over the next few years and in 1979 I was thrilled to learn that he had accepted a full professorship at the University of Michigan. He also would be the chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in which I had an appointment, and his labs would be directly across the street from mine. This led to many years of close collaboration in antiviral drug discovery and research in which his lab did the chemistry and mine did the biochemistry and virology. Together we published many papers, our students presented at multiple meetings, and we were co-inventors on numerous patents. We both were very proud to have initiated studies on benzimidazo
le nucleosides that ultimately led to a new antiviral drug, maribavir. Recently we were thrilled to learn it was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for the treatment of cytomegalovirus infections.
A detailed obituary for Leroy written primarily by his daughter Lisa can be found here: https://www.messingermortuary.com/obituary/Leroy-Townsend#tributewall
A tribute to Leroy and his personal history that I wrote on the occasion of his 70th birthday can be found here: Nucleosides, Nucleotides & Nucleic Acids Vol. 23, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. xv–xxiii, 2004.
John C. Drach Nov 21, 2022
About ISAR NEWS
The official newsletter of the International Society for Antiviral Research
© Publications workgroup (Communications & Outreach Committee) and Luis M Schang, Editor