Expertise and Current Research Activity
Plant biodiversity enables me to continue to strive to develop new therapeutic leads for the improvement of human health. I am dedicated to the exploration, discovery and development of new drug leads from natural sources, by conducting field work, sophisticated chemical isolation and characterization procedures, screening and testing methodologies and by explaining the biological activities through structural studies and molecular design.
Major efforts in my laboratory include a program to discover biologically active compounds from native medicinal plants in the Great Plains with the objective to develop and commercialize therapeutic agents and botanical dietary supplements. In the past two years, we have isolated and characterized from several species of the Solanaceae over 50 natural products new to science thus showing the importance of plant biodiversity of Kansas as a source of unknown molecules. These compounds as well as their semi-synthetic derivatives are currently being evaluated in pre-clinical models of various forms of cancer and their synergistic effects with currently used anticancer drugs in order to reduce the doses of highly cytotoxic anti-cancer therapies. An indication of the attention that our research is receiving by our peers was the feature of our results on the cover of the American Chemical Society publication Journal of Natural Products for six consecutive months (January-June 2013).
Other projects include studies to determine whether turmeric dietary supplements are effective in preventing and treating the skeletal complications that occur in up to a third of women diagnosed with breast cancer and studies to determine whether ginger dietary supplements can be efficacious in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and to identify the chemical composition of the ginger root that must be present in a dietary supplement to provide the biologic effect. Based on my long-term involvement with mechanistic studies of polyphenolic natural products, I was invited by the Journal Current Pharmaceutical Design to be the Executive Editor of the special issue Plant Polyphenols and Health Benefits (2013, vol. 19, no. 34).
Why Study at the University of Kansas?
The University of Kansas is one of the very few universities in the US where the field of natural products chemistry is offered to graduate students and to professional students in the School of Pharmacy.