MALTO began with the concept of a miniature medicinal chemistry meeting at which students could have the opportunity to present their research to their peers and mentors. This concept was first put into practice in the early 1960's under the leadership of Drs. Portoghese, Cannon, Smissman, and Bauer at the Universities of Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois, respectively (MIKI).
Credit for the concept and the inspiration for our own miniature medicinal chemistry meeting must be given to this group of individuals. For several of us who experienced the excitement and value of such an experience it was only natural to attempt to bring this same opportunity to our region of the country.
In the spring of 1974, Tom Lemke (University of Houston) called his KU classmate Nelson Voldeng (Nels) at the University of Arkansas to ask what he thought of the idea. Not only did Nels think that the idea would work in our region of the country, but he indicated that he had another transplanted Kansan at Arkansas, Danny Lattin.
When the conversation got around to who else might be interested in helping to develop a MIKI clone, Danny suggested Bob Magarian at Oklahoma who had also experienced MIKI while a post-doc at KU. Thus, a regional medicinal chemistry meeting in the South Central region of the U.S. was born. By the time of the first meeting (October 2-4, 1974) two other schools had signed on under the leadership of Jay Nematollahi at the University of Texas and Ray Saenz at Northeast Louisiana University.
The first meeting, titled "First Annual Medicinal Chemistry Meeting-in-Miniature", was sponsored by the University of Houston, The Upjohn Company, E.R. Squibb & Sons, Roche Laboratories, and Alcon Eye Research Foundation. Dr. Joe Buckley, Dean at the University of Houston, welcomed the attendees who listened to 17 student and faculty presentations plus invited presentations from Dr. E. Wenkert of Rice University and Dr. S. Welch from the Chemistry Department at the University of Houston. Dr. Lin Cates suggested a shorter name for the organization and the members voted to call the organization ALTO (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma). Since football was "king" in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma the decision was made to move the meeting to the spring, rather than risk a scheduling conflict, and Bob Magarian volunteered to host the second meeting in Oklahoma.
The second annual ALTO meeting took place in Norman, Oklahoma and was preceded by a mixer with 32 attendees. The largest contingent at the 2nd meeting came from Texas Southern University (8). The meeting saw 13 student and faculty presentations and three invited presentations from faculty at Oklahoma including Drs. Pushkar Kaul, Alfred Weinheimer and Francis Schmitz. The highlight of the meeting was a cookout prepared by master chef Magarian and an evening of excitement in downtown Norman. It should be mentioned that ALTO'S expenses for 1975 amounted to $131.64, leaving a balance of $395.00 in the ALTO account.
The 3rd ALTO Medicinal Chemistry & Pharmacognosy Meeting in Miniature took place on May 19-21, 1976 in Monroe, Louisiana and besides attendance by the four founding schools, representatives and presentations came from Texas Southern University, the University of Mississippi, and Southwestern Oklahoma State Colleges. A total of 24 presentations were given plus an invited lecture by Dr. W.K. Taylor from Northeast Louisiana University.
The 4th annual meeting returned to Houston hosted by Texas Southern University. Again the meeting had participation from Southwestern Oklahoma University and the University of Mississippi. Following the meeting Mississippi was asked to join ALTO and they were accepted. Beginning with the 5th annual meeting at Little Rock the organization took on its present name of MALTO.
MALTO completed its cycle of host institutions following the 6th and 7th annual meetings, which were hosted by the University of Mississippi in 1979, and the University of Texas in 1980. In 1982 MALTO became an IRS 501(c) 3 not for profit Oklahoma Corporation (Tax exempt) with Bob Magarian, President; Ron Borne, Vice President; Tom Lemke, Secretary; and Danny Lattin, Board Member.
Other milestone events in the history of MALTO consisted of the participation and hosting of a meeting by Xavier University in 1986 in New Orleans (13th meeting). In 1988, the organization began the first A. Nelson Voldeng Memorial Lecture. Held at Auburn University during the 15th MALTO meeting, the first Voldeng Memorial Lecture was presented by Dr. Wendel Nelson. Eighty-two registrants attended the meeting and it marked the first meeting attended by faculty from the University of Georgia.
In 1991, Tom Lemke resigned as secretary/treasurer (1974 - 1991). He has been followed in this office by Bob Sindelar (Mississippi, 1991 - 1995), Michael Crider (University of. Louisiana at Monroe, 1995-2004), and E. Kim Fifer (Arkansas, 2004 – present). The 19th Annual MALTO Meeting hosted by the University of Arkansas was the first meeting at which attendance exceeded 100 registrants.
At the 1993 meeting (20th MALTO) the University of Tennessee participated for the first time. In 1994, Peter Ruenitz, University of Georgia began attending the meetings. At the 25th Annual MALTO Meeting (1998) poster sessions were used for the first time. Posters became necessary when the number of papers submitted exceeded the time available for podium sessions. (8 posters and 22 presentations).
In 1999, an award for the outstanding student podium presentation was established in the name of Robert A Magarian. Similar awards were established in 2003 and 2015 for the outstanding student poster in honor of Dr. Thomas L. Lemke and the outstanding postdoctoral poster in honor of Dr. Ronald F. Borne, respectively.