Drugs from natural sources topic of 2011 Job Lecture

May 24th, 2011

Kelly Foss

Dr. John Vederas
Drugs from natural sources topic of 2011 Job Lecture

Is the era of discovery of new drugs from natural sources ending? A presentation by Dr. John Vederas, the Department of Chemistry’s 2011 Job Visiting Professor, will examine some of the current problems faced by drug discovery efforts that employ natural sources.

Dr. Vederas is the Canada Research Chair in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta. His public lecture, “Drugs from Bugs and Other Natural Sources,” will take place June 15.

“Over 200 years ago, a 21-year-old pharmacist’s apprentice named Friedrich Sertürner isolated the first pharmacologically active pure compound from a plant, namely morphine from opium produced by cut seed pods of a poppy,” explains Dr. Vederas. “This initiated an era wherein drugs from plants could be studied and administered in precise measured dosages that did not vary with the source or age of the material.”

He says the discovery of penicillin in 1928 ultimately prompted massive screening of microorganisms for new antibiotics and eventually about 80 per cent of drugs were either natural products or analogs inspired by them.

“Life expectancy in much of the world lengthened from about 40 years early in the 20th century to more than 77 years now,” said Dr. Vederas. “With such a successful record, it might be expected that isolation of drugs from living organisms would be the core of pharmaceutical discovery efforts and widely supported by the public.

“In contrast, many large pharmaceutical firms have eliminated such research in the last decade. Academic support for isolation and structure elucidation efforts is difficult to obtain and increasingly, the public is turning to alternative medicine including herbal therapies and “natural” mixtures of unknown efficacy.”

A Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alberta, his presentation will describes some exciting possibilities offered by emerging discoveries and new technologies.

Dr. Vederas is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London as well as an Alberta Centennial Medal recipient. He has received numerous awards from the University of Alberta and from his peers. He served in numerous scientific organizations, was President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, a Member of Council of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Chair of the 2008 Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for Chemistry. He is the author of over 250 research publications, four books and 13 patents.

“Drugs from Bugs and Other Natural Sources,” will take place June 15 at 3:30 p.m. in the Science building, St. John’s Campus of Memorial University, Room SN-2109. A wine and cheese reception will follow.


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