Daniel Bovet (1907-1992)

In 1957, Swiss-born Daniel Bovet won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries relating to synthetic compounds and their effects on blood vessels and skeletal muscles. Daniel Bovet discovered the first antihistamine and the first synthetic curare-like agents. He pioneered medicinal chemistry.

Daniel Bovet

"For his discoveries relating to synthetic compounds for the blocking of the effects of certain substances occurring in the body, especially in its blood vessels and skeletal muscles".


Daniel Bovet co-discovered the anti-infectious action of sulfonamides and pioneered neuroscience at the Institut Pasteur, working alongside his wife, Filomena Nitti, the sister of another Institut Pasteur scientist, Federico Nitti. One of his major contributions was the discovery of antihistamines and synthetic curare-like agents. He worked with Ernest Fourneau in the medicinal chemistry department from the 1930s to the post-war years.

Extract from an interview with Prof. Changeux, former director of the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur.

" Daniel Bovet pioneered the identification of chemical substances capable of acting on receptors and competing with endogenous substances such as neurotransmitters. But obviously at the time he was neither aware of what a receptor was nor that pharmacological agents could bind to sites other than the active site or the biological activity site, known as allosteric sites. Nowadays this is a highly active field of molecular pharmacology. "

Daniel Bovet discovered the first synthetic adrenergic blocking agent in 1933, the first synthetic antihistamine in 1937 and the first synthetic curare-like agent in 1946.

"In 1946, Bovet, Depierre and Courvoisier introduced gallamine (or flaxedil) in clinical practice. This has since been used by generations of anesthetists and surgeons as a muscle relaxant. (…) In 1950, Daniel Bovet joined forces with Feldberg, then Nachmanson (in 1953) in the battle against certain electrophysiologists, in favor of chemical neurotransmission in the central nervous system. In this experimental work he mentioned " special adrenaline, acetylcholine and histamine receptors in the body that could be specific proteins with a configuration complementary to those of the transmitter itself ". Fifty years ahead of time, Daniel Bovet anticipated the involvement of pharmacological receptors - and the nicotine receptor in particular - in controlling states of consciousness."

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