Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego Distinguished Professor William Gerwick received the American Society of Pharmacognosy’s Norman R. Farnsworth Research Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to natural products research. Gerwick will accept the award during the Society’s annual meeting in July at the 2016 Joint Natural Products Conference in Copenhagen.
Gerwick’s research focuses on the unique natural products of marine algae and cyanobacteria and their application in various areas of biomedicine. His research team uses scuba to collect marine samples from around the world, and grows them in the laboratory to isolate their bioactive compounds for further testing.
The natural products isolated by the Gerwick laboratory are being examined for anticancer, antibiotic, antiviral, neurochemical, and agrochemical activities, and have been involved in discoveries and evaluation in the areas of cancer, inflammation, and infectious disease, including tropical diseases such as malaria, Chagas’ disease, and leishmaniasis. More recently, his group has also applied its chemical and genetic approaches to obtain biofuels from cultured microalgae. Gerwick has graduated 35 PhD students, numerous master students, and his laboratory has trained more than 30 postdoctoral fellows. Over his scientific career, Gerwick has published over 300 scientific articles.
Gerwick is the director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps and holds a joint professorship with the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served as chair of the Gordon Research conference for Marine Natural Products, and as president of the American Society of Pharmacognosy. He is also a former associate editor of the Journal of Natural Products.
The Farnsworth Research Award is the highest honor of the Society and includes an honorarium of $5,000 and travel expenses to present the award lecture at its annual meeting.
The American Society of Pharmacognosy was founded in 1959 to “bring together men and women dedicated to the promotion, growth, and development not only of pharmacognosy but all aspects of those sciences related to and dealing in natural products.” Pharmacognosy, derived from the Greek words, “pharmakon” or drug, and “gnosis” or knowledge, is the study of natural product molecules that are useful for their medicinal or ecological properties.