William Fenical, distinguished professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, has been awarded the distinction of “fellow” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.
In all, five faculty members from UC San Diego were honored as 2008 AAAS Fellows.
“We are proud to have more than 75 UC San Diego faculty members who have been named AAAS fellows,” said Marye Anne Fox, chancellor for UC San Diego. “I want to congratulate these outstanding researchers for the significant contributions they’ve made to science and to humankind.”
Fenical is director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and an adjunct professor at the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. AAAS honored him “for distinguished contributions to organic chemistry and natural products chemistry of marine invertebrates and bacteria from deep-sea sediments, particularly for the discovery and characterization of new antitumor compounds including salinosporamide A.”
Fenical investigates the discovery of new chemical materials from marine microorganisms that may have potential uses to treat human diseases. His laboratory pioneered biomedical studies of marine bacteria from deep ocean sediments. Salinosporamide A, a promising new drug identified in 1991 by Fenical and his group, is currently in phase I human clinical trials for the treatment of multiple myeloma and other cancers.
Chosen by their peers, AAAS fellows are recognized for their distinguished efforts to advance science and for significant contributions in areas such as research, teaching, technology, or administration.
The new honorees will be recognized on Feb. 14, 2009, at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals.
The other new UCSD AAAS fellows are:
• Darwin Berg, professor of biology, who was honored “for distinguished contributions to the field of molecular and cellular neurobiology, particularly for synapse formation and the role of nicotinic cholinergic signaling.” Berg's current research investigates how signaling between nerve cells influences the development of the nervous system. His group is identifying the molecular players and investigating how they work. Thinking and the formation of memories depend on the biochemical signaling system that Berg studies. Defects in this system contribute to common pathologies, including Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and addiction.
• Webster Cavenee, director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research’s San Diego branch, located on the UC San Diego campus, professor of medicine and member of the Moores Cancer Center at the School of Medicine, was honored “for distinguished contributions to the field of medical and molecular oncology, particularly the discovery of inactivation of tumor suppressor genes and its role in hereditary predisposition.” Cavenee’s research on the genetic defects in a rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma, led to the first experimental evidence for tumor suppressor genes in humans. The finding fundamentally altered the way scientists think about the onset of cancer and its progression.
• Immo Erich Scheffler, professor of biology, was recognized “for distinguished contributions to the field of mitochondrial physiology, particularly for investigations on the signaling pathways from mitochondria to cytoplasm and nucleus.” Scheffler’s work has focused on the biochemical processes by which mitochondria produce energy for cells. Working with colleagues in California and Australia, he also is currently seeking to identify genes responsible for diseases caused by mitochondrial malfunction.
• Susan Taylor, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the Division of Physical Sciences, and pharmacology in the School of Medicine, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was honored “for her distinguished contributions to the field of enzyme biochemistry, particularly for elucidation of the structure, function, and evolution of protein kinases.” Protein kinases act as molecular switches to coordinate biochemical signaling within cells and often lead to cancer when they mutate. Taylor has identified the structure of an archetypal protein kinase and continues to investigate how protein kinases work, particularly how their behavior changes when they join large assemblies of molecules.