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Iwao Ojima Receives Ernest Guenther Award in Chemistry

Iwao Ojima

Iwao Ojima, distinguished professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry, was recently named the recipient of the 2019 Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products from the American Chemical Society (ACS). This is the fourth ACS national award received by Dr. Ojima, in four different fields of chemistry: Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1994, synthetic organic chemistry), Emanuel B. Hershberg Award (2001, medicinal chemistry) and ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry (2013).

Iwao Ojima
Iwao Ojima

One of the oldest and most prestigious ACS national awards, the Ernest Guenther award recognizes outstanding achievements in the analysis, structure elucidation, and chemical synthesis of natural products. The past award recipients include five Nobel laureates and the award is recognized as the highest prize in the chemistry of natural products worldwide. Thus, by receiving this award, the Department of Chemistry at Stony Brook is securing a bright spot on the world map. 

The award will be presented to Dr. Ojima at the Award Ceremony and Banquet on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in conjunction with the 257th ACS National Meeting in Orlando, where Winners of the 2019 National Awards will be honored. There will be an Award Symposium honoring Dr. Ojima at the same meeting in which he will receive a medallion associated with the Guenther Award.

“The Ernest Guenther Award has honored a number of giants and most respected organic chemists whom I admired during my long career in research,” says Dr. Ojima. “Thus, I am thrilled to be added to this outstanding roster of organic and natural product chemists. I feel I am blessed as a chemist.”

Dr. Ojima’s nomination was made by Dennis Curran, Bayer Professor and distinguished service professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, seconded by Professor Satoshi Omura (Kitasato University, Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 2015) and Professor Paul A. Wender (Stanford University, national academy of sciences).  In this nomination, Professor Curran cited Dr. Ojima as the “world leader in the exploitation of taxol and taxane-class natural products in chemistry and applications to biomedical research,” recognizing him “for exploration of the full potential of taxane-class diterpenes at the interface of natural product chemistry, synthetic methodology, medicinal chemistry, chemical biology and medicine.”  

Dr. Ojima has published 142 papers and reviews in leading journals, and obtained 14 U.S. patents, specifically on taxanes and taxoids at the time of nomination in 2017. He invented a highly efficient method for the synthesis of taxol and taxoids, which enabled him to develop efficacious next-generation taxane anticancer agents. Aso, he was the first to demonstrate the profound potential of taxanes other than their anticancer activities by developing highly effective MDR-reversal agents as well as antitubercular agents based on taxanes. He is a leader in the tumor-targeting delivery of drug conjugates featuring extremely potent new-generation taxoids as their cytotoxic payload.

Dr. Ojima received his PhD from the University of Tokyo and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including ACS Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame; Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, American Association of Advancement of Science, John S. Guggenheim Foundation, New York Academy of Sciences and American Chemical Society; Outstanding Inventor Award from SUNY-RF, etc. He has published more than 480 papers and reviews and has held 34 US patents and more than 100 foreign patents. He is currently the founding director of the Institute of Chemical Biology & Drug Discovery (ICB&DD) and the president of the Stony Brook University Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors.

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