Joseph G. Cannon received the B. S. degree in Pharmacy (High
Honors) from the University of Illinois in 1951. He subsequently
received the M. S. (1953) and Ph.D. degree in Chemistry (Pharmacology
minor) from Illinois in 1957.
He was appointed an Assistant Professor in the School of Pharmacy
of the University of Wisconsin in 1956 and he was named Associate
Professor in 1960. He joined the faculty of the College of
Pharmacy of the University of Iowa in 1962 and he was named
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at that institution in 1965.
He was granted the title of Professor Emeritus of Medicinal
Chemistry in 1996.
His early research addressed the conformational chemistry
of depolarizing myoneural blocking agents related to succinyl
dicholine and the three-dimensional geometry of acetylcholine.
A compound resulting from this latter study was trans-ACTM,
in which the elements of the flexible acetylcholine molecule
were incorporated into a rigid cyclopropane ring system, freezing
the acetylcholine portion in an extended conformation. This
compound is a muscarinic agonist displaying equi-potency and
activity to acetylcholine itself and lacking effect at nicotinic
receptors. trans-ACTM is perhaps the only known synthetic
acetylcholine congener which is as good a substrate for acetylcholinesterase
as is acetylcholine.
Cannon and his pharmacologist collaborator J. P. Long investigated
the chemistry, structure-activity relationships, and pharmacology
of apomorphine and of many of its analogs and congeners. This
work led to an extended search for anti-Parkinsonian agents
involving, inter alia, conformational studies on dopamine
and the design, synthesis, and structure-activity studies
of many analogs and congeners. An offshoot of the work on
dopaminergic agonists was the unexpected discovery of new
compounds having specific effects at serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.
The Cannon-Long groups conducted extensive synthetic, structure-activity,
and pharmacological studies on hemicholinium (a blocker of
choline uptake into cholinergic nerve terminals) as a part
of an overall search for prophylactic agents against phosphorus-containing
“nerve gases” and insecticides. Compounds were
designed which were prophylactic against fivefold LD50 doses
of the phosphorus-derived insecticide paraoxon.
In 1984 he was named Dale E. Wurster Research Fellow in the
College of Pharmacy and he received the Iowa Regents Award
for Faculty Excellence in 1994. In 1997 he was named recipient
of the Smissman Bristol Myers Squibb Award in Medicinal Chemistry
He originated and taught an American Chemical Society short
course, “Pharmacology for Chemists” which he presented
many times over some 27 years. In 2006 he received an ACS
Outstanding Teacher Award, incident to his work with this
short course He participated in the founding of the Residential
School on Medicinal Chemistry presented annually at Drew University,
and for many years he taught in the School.
He served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Medicinal
Chemistry, Chirality, Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry,
the Indian Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, and the Sixth
Edition of Burger’s Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery.
He served as the Book Review Editor of the Journal of Medicinal
Chemistry until his death in December of 2011.