Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Under the sea: IU chemist David Williams to deliver Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture
2008 Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture explores the scientific wealth of natural products from the sea
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Since the earliest civilizations, plants and animals in their environments have been explored as sources of remedies for disease. In search of elixir properties, humans have discovered all manner of things in distant mountains and steaming jungles. The folklore of tribal medicines and the alchemy of the Middle Ages have contributed to the development of modern pharmaceuticals. In fact, natural substances have served as a primary stimulus for innovations leading to drug development up to the present day.
David R. Williams looks underwater for his elixirs, and as the 2008 Indiana University Distinguished Faculty Research Lecturer, will discuss the efforts of his laboratory group to explore the chemistry of recently discovered natural products from the marine world and how substances from those products may be transformed into new treatments for disease. The lecture is scheduled for Thursday, April 3, at 3 p.m. in the Frangipani Room at the Indiana Memorial Union. The public is welcome.
"The marine ecosystem provides a rich resource for novel molecular architectures with remarkable potency," says Williams, who is the Harry G. Day Chair and professor of chemistry at IU Bloomington.
Throughout his years at IU, Williams and his laboratory colleagues have conducted studies culminating in more than 40 syntheses of complex natural products. In 1986, for instance, his work led him to the synthesis of pseudomonic acid C, a topical antibiotic currently used for treating victims of severe burns and AIDS patients with compromised immune systems.
In more recent years, Williams' laboratory has designed strategies and methods for synthesizing marine natural products that are available in exceedingly small quantities from sources such as a rare deep-water sponge or soft coral. For example, Williams' studies of the molecular complexity of marine natural products have led to a synthesis of hennoxazole A, a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
Williams says he and co-workers in his laboratory are driven by the desire to provide fresh platforms for the development of new medicines and therapies.
"Our efforts are amplified by pressing needs for new antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents for treating cancer that possess greater efficacy and specificity," he says.
Fundamental advancements in understanding reactivity and reagents in his discipline of organic chemistry, Williams says, are the "essential element which makes organic chemistry a central proactive science for advances in medicine, biology, materials science, environmental sciences and other fields."
The 2008 DFRL lecture is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Office of the Provost at IU Bloomington. Inaugurated in 1980, the lecture series honors the achievements of IU Bloomington faculty. Past distinguished lecturers include Richard Shiffrin, Ellen Ketterson, Milos Novotny and Meredith West. For more information, visit www.research.iu.edu/traditions/iudfrl.html.