Scripps marine chemist receives highest award in Natural Products Chemistry

William Fenical honored at American Chemical Society meeting

William Fenical, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, will be awarded the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products by the American Chemical Society (ACS) on March 28 at the 231st ACS national meeting in Atlanta.

Fenical is director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, a UCSD campuswide research division, headquartered at Scripps, that is dedicated to the exploration of the novel and diverse resources of the ocean, with a focus on marine biomedicine and marine drug discovery. Fenical has been associated with Scripps since 1973.

The Ernest Guenther Award, which grants recipients $5,000, is presented "to recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in analysis, structure elucidation and chemical synthesis of natural products." Previous Ernest Guenther Award winners include Nobel Prize winners Sir Derek H. R. Barton, Konrad E. Bloch, Elias J. Corey and John W. Cornforth.

The award was first bestowed in 1949 and is named for Ernest Guenther, author of Essential Oils, a six-volume reference on the methods for analysis of essential oils and their individual chemical constituents, and the oils' history, chemistry, biological origin and functions. Guenther was vice president and technical director of Givaudan, one of the oldest and largest flavor and fragrance houses in the world. Givaudan has sponsored the Guenther Award since 1992.

"Bill Fenical is a true pioneer of marine natural products chemistry, one of the first to see the great potential to benefit humanity from the study of marine organisms, particularly in the area of drug discovery," said Charles Kennel, director of Scripps. "As the rate of discovery of new drugs from land organisms slows down, our marine resources will become ever more critical and valuable, something Fenical has understood for over 30 years. Bill is also a wonderful communicator of his science, earning the respect of specialists and laypersons equally."

Fenical's latest research exploring the microorganisms from the ocean sea floor has uncovered a treasure trove of potential new drugs. From a deep ocean site near the Bahamas, he discovered a bacterium that produces a potent anticancer agent, nearing human clinical trials, that targets multiple myeloma. Fenical also discovered a new anti-inflammatory drug derived from a soft coral. This drug, Pseudopterosin, is currently used in skin creams and is in line for development for the treatment of human skin diseases.

In 2004, Fenical received the National Cancer Institute's highly respected Merit Award for his discovery of the production of new antibiotics and antitumor agents by deep ocean sediment bacteria.

Separately, on March 30 at the ACS national meeting, Scripps scientist William Gerwick will make a presentation, titled, "Halogenation in the cyanobacteria: Novel natural products and their biosynthesis." Gerwick holds a joint professorship with Scripps and the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. His research focuses on the unique natural products of marine algae and cyanobacteria and their application in various areas of biomedicine. He received his Ph.D. from Scripps in 1981 as a graduate student with Fenical, and came to UCSD in 2005 after spending more than 20 years on the faculty of the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University.


The American Chemical Society was founded in 1876 and now has more than 158,000 members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry. The organization provides a broad range of opportunities for peer interaction and career development, regardless of professional or scientific interests.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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