In Memoriam of prof. Gotfryd Kupryszewski

Gotfryd Kupryszewski
Prof. Gotrfryd Kupryszewski
(1929 - 2005)

On July 15, 2005, after long an grave illness, we lost Professor Gotfryd Kupryszewski, one of the founders of Polish peptide science, but most importantly a Mentor of many of us. He was a man for whom the greatest passion of his life was professional activity.

Gotfryd Wiktor Kupryszewski was born on September 30, 1929 in Pińsk. After the end of World War II he joined his life fortunes with those of the Gdańsk Coast. He graduated from secondary school and high school in Gdynia and then, starting with 1949, studied at the Chemical Faculty of the Gdańsk University of Technology, earning the titles of chemistry engineer (1953) and M. Sc. (1955), and subsequently the scientific Ph. D. degree in 1958. His further career did not fit the standards established in Polish science; in 1963 he won the Polish degree of associate professor, and finally in 1976 he was awarded the title of full professor.

Scientific interests of prof. Kupryszewski were focused on widely-interpreted chemistry of amino acid and polypeptide. One can distinguish two main research themes: (1) methodology of peptide synthesis and (2) synthesis and structure-activity relationships for amino acid and peptide derivatives.

The first research theme was realized in the papers written in the fifties and sixties, which dealt with non-hydrolytic cleavage of peptide bonds by means of N-acidolysis as well as with selective cleavage of ester bonds in esters of acylated amino acids and peptides by means of O-acidolysis. Works concerning preventing racemisation during chemical synthesis of peptides are particularly noteworthy as well. In this field prof. Kupryszewski and his co-workers proposed the mechanism of action of so-called anti-racemisation additives; they also introduced into peptide chemistry a number of new compounds acting according to the proposed mechanism. The methods of synthesising peptide bonds via active pentachlorophenyl esters was also proposed by prof. Kupryszewski in that period. This method used to be employed by many research groups.

The problem of relationships between the structure of organic compounds and their biological activity was first addressed by prof. Kupryszewski in the case of amino acid derivatives affecting the central nervous system (3-aryl-4-aminobutanoic acids) and possessing herbicidal activity (2-amino-4-aryloxybutanoic acids). One of the projects fitting this theme was designing an original synthesis of D,L-p-chlorophenyl-4-aminobutanoic acid for "Polfa" Starogard Pharmaceutical Company (the agent is being sold under trade name "Baclofen"). This drug decreases muscle tension and is used in therapy of sclerosis multiplex, among others. In subsequent years prof. Kupryszeewski's interest in increasingly large biologically-active compounds grew. At first these were small peptides like N-acyl derivatives of L-lysine- and L-ornitine-containing peptides exhibiting antibacterial activity, thyrotrophic hormone analogues, opioid peptides (enkephalins, kiotorphin, casomorphine) or analogues of the tissue hormone angiotensin II. In subsequent years prof. Kupryszewski's interests began to shift towards larger peptides of more complex structure, like cholecystokinin, gastrin, arginyl-vasopressin analogues, gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues, neuropeptides of the tachykinin family, galanin and its analogues, immunoactive peptides, serine proteinase inhibitors, systemin, as well as polypeptides forming complexes with nucleic acids. These are the main (but not all) subjects of prof. Kupryszewski's research.

The scientific record of prof. Kupryszewski includes nearly 300 papers, a dozen monographies and 5 handbooks and published series of university lectures. One of the latter, "Wstęp do chemii organicznej" (Introduction to Organic Chemistry), was for many years one of the most popular handbooks amongst students of chemistry and associated fields in Poland. Works of prof. Kupryszewski's team were presented by himself of his co-workers at more than 100 scientific conferences.

Prof. Kupryszewski was also cultivating very wide co-operation with numerous research centres both in Poland and abroad. He took several research fellowships as "visiting scientist" in centres of renown like The Salk Institute (USA) and the University of Uppsala (Sweden). In turn, numerous researchers from other centres in Poland and abroad worked as fellows in his laboratory.

Prof. Gotfryd Kupryszewski tied all his scientific career with a single physical place - the building on Sobieskiego street. At first it housed the Pedagogical University of Gdańsk, where G. Kupryszewski won the position of assistant teacher in 1953. There he passed the subsequent steps in research career (senior lecturer in 1958, assistant professor in 1963, associate professor in 1969) and after the University of Gdańsk was founded in 1970, he was employed in the University as full professor in 1976. He worked at this position till he retired in 2002.

Prof. Kupryszewski's input into organisation and operation of both universities would be difficult to overestimate. It could not be fully deducted only from management positions he occupied in the Institute of Chemistry and later at the Faculty of Chemistry (1965–1970 head of the Organic Synthesis Department, 1970–1996 head of the Bioorganic Chemistry Department, 1996–2001 head of the Organic Chemistry Department). Prof. Kupryszewski also worked several terms as the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics Physics and Chemistry of the Pedagogical University (1963–1968) and later of the University of Gdańsk (1970–1972) and well as the Vice-Rector of the Pedagogical University (1968–1970) and of the University of Gdańsk (1970–1972). Prof. Kupryszewski was also one of the founders and organisers of both the University of Gdańsk and its Faculty of Chemistry founded in 1990.

Prof. G. Kupryszewski was also very active outside his mother university. He participated in a number of branch committees, the Polish Scientific Research Committee (KBN), Polish Chemical Society, editorial boards of branch periodicals, as well as the scientific boards of the Institute of Oceanology in Sopot and the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań, among others. He was also a member of multiple scientific associations, including the Gdańsk Scientific Society (where he held the position of chairman in the years 1972–1978), the Polish Chemical Society, the Polish Biochemical Society, the Polish Physiological Society, the Swedish Chemical Society, as well as the European Peptide Society, in which he held the position of chairman in the years 1976–1978. He also served two terms (1990–1994 and 1994–1998) as Poland's representative on the Board of the latter. Prof. Kupryszewski was also involved in organising a number of scientific conferences; among the most important ones one should note the organisation of the prestigious XV European Peptide Symposium in Gdańsk in 1978. He also organised the first Polish peptide conference in 1967; in 1973 such conferences started being organised every two years and with time were renamed to Polish Peptide Symposia. Outside the scientific community prof. Kupryszewski became known towards the end of the eighties as a declared opponent of continuing the construction of a nuclear power plant in Żarnowiec. He also participated in the Round Table talks from the Solidarity side.

Prof. Kupryszewski's input to the development of science cadres is equally imposing. He promoted 25 doctorates in chemistry; under his inspiration 9 scientists successfully underwent the proceedings associated with obtaining the assistant professor degree. Five of his students won the title of professor.

For his scientific achievements and organisation activity prof. G. Kupryszewski was repeatedly awarded branch prizes as well as honours from science societies and local communities, including the title of the Honorary Member of the Gdańsk Chemical Society.

Professor Kupryszewski was undoubtedly the leader of the Polish society of peptide chemists. His authority among his fellow scientists to no degree resulted from his official functions, for he did never pursue them. All who knew him were certain that any opinion he voiced was based on pure merits only and was completely devoid of any opportunism; coupled with professor's already legendary temper, this assured that his voice was always heeded in any discussion. For many among us he will remain a great authority, such as are increasingly rare nowadays. He was not interested only in scientific progress of his co-workers and his mother unit; ha also cared deeply for individual members of our peptide society. He repeatedly supported or even inspired their scientific and professional advancements. He was undoubtedly one of the persons contributing to exceptional integration of the Polish peptide society, which was also reflected in his very high standing in the international scale.

Gotfryd Kupryszewski was lucky to live a very happy private life. With his wife Jadwiga they formed a couple that perfectly understood and supported each other in all situations throughout their lives. He was also a loving father for his daughter Małgorzata and a caring grandfather for his grandson Maciej.

In professor Gotfryd Kupryszewski we all lose not only a researcher, well known and respected in the world, for many a Mentor, Friend and loyal colleague, who could be relied upon always and in any situation; we lose a righteous and honest man, always motivated not by his own splendour, but by the best interest of the society he worked in.

Contributed by Krzysztof Rolka