Born in Munich, Germany, John Neumeyer immigrated to England in 1939 and to the USA in 1945. In New York City he graduated from The Bronx H.S. of Science (1948) and then received his B.Sc. from Columbia University (1952). He completed his studies in 1961 receiving his Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin.
As a research chemist at Ethicon Inc, he was awarded the basic patents for the aluminum foil suture package required for gamma radiation sterilization. Neumeyer was hired by FMC Corporation in 1961 to work on synthetic pyrethroids and their synergists and, in 1963, moved to Cambridge, MA to work at the consulting firm of Arthur D. Little, Inc. In 1969, he received a joint appointment at Northeastern University as Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemistry.
Professor Neumeyer’s research first attracted attention because of his studies of the chemistry of aporphines which resulted in the first total syntheses of racemic apomorphine, apocodeine and N-n-propylnorapomorphine (NPA). He developed the first electrochemical and photochemical cyclization routes to aporphines. Neumeyer then focused his attention on the development of ligands for the in vivo visualization of the dopamine transporter and/or the cocaine receptor site. The first report of a high affinity radioactive ligand, [3H]-CFT, a phenyltropane derivative, was reported from his laboratory in 1989. Further development of this tritiated ligand led to a series of studies which culminated in the development of the [123I], [18F] and [11C] phenyltropanes, CIT and FP-CIT (DaTSCAN™, ioflupane). These commercially available ligands are used for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
An important aspect of Professor Neumeyer’s career was his role as cofounder and Scientific Director of Research Biochemicals International (RBI) in 1980. His objective in founding this company was to make non-radioactive ligands available to the scientific community. RBI gained worldwide respect and recognition as the leading source of neurochemicals. The RBI Handbook of Receptor Classification, co-edited by Neumeyer and Kebabian, is now in its fifth edition.
Professor Neumeyer has received numerous awards including: the Lunsford Richardson Prize for his Ph.D. thesis (1961); Pfeiffer Memorial Research Award (1975); Senior Hayes Fulbright Fellowship (1975); Northeastern University Faculty Lecturer (1978); first Matthews Distinguished University (Northeastern) Professor (1980); Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Achievement Award in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry (1982); and the Marie Curie Award of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (1992). He has served on the Committee of Revision of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (1970-1985) and various NIH study sections.
Neumeyer founded the Medicinal Chemistry Group in the Northeastern Section, ACS, (1965); Chaired the Division of Medicinal Chemistry (1982); and Chaired the Northeastern Section of the ACS (2003). In 1998, Neumeyer received the Henry A. Hill Award for Outstanding Service to the Northeastern Section. He has served on the editorial advisory boards of several journals including The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry where he was the first book review editor.
During the course of his career Professor Neumeyer has trained approximately 60 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He is the author of more than 300 refereed scientific publications and 22 US patents. As Distinguished Emeritus Professor, he continues his research activities at Harvard Medical School in the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center of McLean Hospital where he serves as Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Program.