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Ruyun Ji (Z. Y. Kyi)

by Susan J. Ainsworth
August 9, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 32

Ruyun Ji (Z. Y. Kyi), 92, a medicinal chemistry pioneer, died on May 15 in Shanghai from complications of a hemorrhagic stroke.

Born in Shanghai, Ji earned a B.S. in chemistry from Central University (now Nanjing University) in 1941. In 1947, he obtained a scholarship to intern at Nopco Chemical, in New Jersey. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in England from the University of Birmingham in 1950 and then remained there for postdoctoral training in pharmacology.

In 1953, Ji became a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. He developed many first-in-class drugs derived from Chinese medicines and herbs to treat ailments including malaria, schistosomiasis, and cardiovascular and nervous system diseases. His team achieved the first total synthesis of huperzine A, a naturally occurring compound with potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In China, Ji pioneered the establishment of a lab for computational chemistry and three-dimensional quantitative structure-activity studies in drug discovery.

Ji authored more than 200 papers and 20 books and received the State Technology Invention Award in 1984, the National Award in 1988, and the Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation of Science & Technology Progress Award in 2006. He served on the executive committees of the Asian Federation of Medicinal Chemistry and the Chinese Chemical Society and was chief editor of many journals. Ji was elected as academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1980.

He is survived by his wife, four children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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