One of the world’s leading psychopharmacologists passed away Saturday, January 30, 2016 at the age of 91.
He is recognized as the discoverer of several early drugs for psychiatric disorders and as a pioneer in the development of methods to identify and study drugs for treatment in psychiatry. Leonard is credited for his role in the establishment of the modern field of psychopharmacology.
Dr. Cook was born in Newark, NJ in 1924. He served as a celestial navigator in the Army Air Force during World War II. Leonard graduated from Rutgers University and then attended Yale Medical School where he earned his PhD in pharmacology in 1951. In 1952, Dr. Cook was recognized as the first pharmacologist in the United States to study and elucidate the pharmacological properties of chlorpromazine, which eventually became the “breakthrough” agent (Thorazine) for the therapy of schizophrenia. In recognition of these early and significant contributions in the field of neuropsychopharmacology, the Collegium International of Neuropsychopharmacology (CINP) Society awarded him their coveted “Pioneer Award” in 2006. In the same year, the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) presented him with their “Lifetime Achievement Award,” recognizing his early and continuous contributions to this field.
Dr. Cook’s initial research was carried out at Smith Kline & French Laboratories in the early 1950’s, where his research team developed
“Compazine” and “Stelazine,” and discovered a compound for depression, “Parnate.” These compounds had a significant impact in the therapy of psychiatric disorders in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Cook’s research group was internationally recognized as the largest and most prominent behavioral pharmacology research laboratory in the world, visited by international scientists, including many from the former Soviet Union where he was referred to as the “American Pavlov.”
In 1969, he became the Director of Pharmacology at Hoffmann La Roche to lead their entire pharmacological research department, and focused on the research of new drugs in the field of anxiety to follow their initial agents of Librium and Valium. In 1982, Dr. Cook was elected President of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). He was a founding member of this group in 1961 and was the first industrial scientist to serve as President of this prestigious organization. Dr. Cook also received ACNP’s prestigious “Paul Hoch Award.” In 1983, he joined DuPont Merck to build and lead their research in the Central Nervous System area for the pharmaceutical business, resulting in the discovery of agents which entered clinical trials for the potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. During his research career, Dr. Cook also received numerous academic appointments, including adjunct professor of pharmacology at the New Jersey School of Medicine and Temple Medical School, and adjunct professor in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also appointed Visiting Professor of Pharmacology at Beijing Medical School, Shanghai School of Medicine and Xian School of Medicine in China, and visiting professor at Moscow and Leningrad Schools of Medicine.
Dr. Cook served for many years as a consultant to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, particularly in their pursuit of pharmacological agents useful in treating drug abuse. He also served as a special consultant to the Pentagon. He was particularly proud of the many young scientists he trained in his neuropsychopharmacology laboratories, several of whom went on to be outstanding in this field.
Dr. Cook was predeceased by his beloved wife of 45 years, Rheva Cook and is survived by his loving children, Dr. Steven Cook (Linda), Dr. Michael Cook (Rae) and Dr. Sandra Cook Gruber (Thomas); two grandsons, Daniel Cook (Jingsi) and Peter Cook; brother, George Cook; and Len’s close and loving companion, Barbara Yalisove.
Funeral services will be 2:00 pm, Sunday, January 31, 2016 at Congregation Beth Emeth, 300 W. Lea Boulevard, Wilmington, DE 19802. Shiva will be observed 7:00 pm, Sunday, January 31 and Monday, February 1 at the home of Dr. Steven and Linda Cook. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (www.wiesenthal.com).