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Mitscher Receives ASP 2007 Research Achievement Award
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21

Lester (Les) A. Mitscher, PhD, was awarded the 2007 American Society of Pharmacognosy’s (ASP) Norman R. Farnsworth Research Achievement Award, the highest award the society bestows.1,2 Joining respected names of past recipients, such as Professors Norman Farnsworth (2005) and William Fenical (2006), Professor Mitscher received the award at ASP’s 48th annual meeting held July 14–18, 2007, in Portland, Maine.2

“I was surprised and delighted to receive this distinction, particularly when I scan the list of previous awardees,” said Dr. Mitscher (e-mail, August 16, 2007). “I did not expect to be associated with them in this very agreeable way.”

Recipients of this prestigious award are selected each year by the Norman R. Farnsworth ASP Research Achievement Award Committee. Candidates must be members of the society who have contributed to the research of natural products.3 Benefits include $5,000 and the cost of travel to the annual meeting to present the award lecture to the society.

Dr. Mitscher’s lecture was titled, “Co-Evolution: Mankind, Microbes and Pharmacognosy” and tracked the evolution of pharmacognosy as well as the co-evolution of the struggle between humans and microbes.4 Mitscher highlighted pharmacognosy as a silent key player in developing antibiotics in the past and present. He also warned of the possible frightening return to pre-antibiotic days if academia doesn’t step in and fix the problem of microbial resistance, an area where the big pharmaceutical companies have not put a lot of research emphasis, perhaps for commercial reasons.

Dr. Mitscher received his PhD from Wayne State University in 1958. After several successful years in industry working on antibiotics, he returned to academic life. In 1975 he became a distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas, where he remains today. He also has joint academic appointments at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Melbourne, Australia. He has published over 250 research publications and been involved in the writing of 6 books on drug discovery.

This year’s ASP meeting also featured a special workshop on “Contributions of Pharmacognosy to Clinical Trials of Botanicals and Dietary Supplements,” which included a presentation from ABC Advisory Board member Steven Dentali, PhD, called “Botanical Standards: Approaches to Characterizing Consistency.”5 This talk focused on voucher specimens, chemical consistency, Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) recommendations for describing herbal interventions, and common problems for researchers conducting clinical trials with herbs. This speech was also in line with the guidelines that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is setting for proposed clinical trials of botanicals.

“My view is that specific product quality requirements for all research situations have not been elucidated and remain in the realm of qualified expert opinion and judgment,” Dr. Dentali wrote in a recent article. 5

There was also an afternoon session on the safety of botanical preparations that included a presentation from ABC Board of Trustees member Norman Farnsworth, PhD. (It should be noted that after Dr. Farnsworth received the ASP award in 2005, the Research Achievement Award was named after him.) There were also talks on adverse event reporting from ABC Advisory Board members Richard Kingston, PharmD, and Tieraona Low Dog, PhD. Kingston presented on “Enhanced Safety, Implementation Challenges, and Opportunity for the Supplement Industry,” and Dr. Low Dog presented on “Botanicals in Women’s Health.” In this lecture Dr. Low Dog highlighted the evidence surrounding the safe and beneficial use of botanicals for female issues such as menopause, premenstrual syndrome, depression, insomnia, and morning sickness.4

A series of notable oral and poster presentations were also given by ABC Advisory Board members Cindy K. Angerhofer, PhD; John Thor Arnason, PhD; and Barbara Timmermann, PhD.

The 49th annual ASP meeting will be held August 2008 in Athens, Greece, in conjunction with the European Society for Medicinal Plant Research. A follow-up discussion on botanical quality and analyses from the workshop will be held at the annual botanicals conference sponsored by the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, April 12-16, 2008. More information is available at the ASP Web site at http://www.phcog.org.

—Kelly E. Saxton
References
  1. Gerwick B. Dr. Fenical receives ASP research achievement award. The ASP Newsletter. 2006;42(3):6.

  2. The 48th annual meeting of the American society of pharmacognosy. The ASP Newsletter. 2007;43(1):13.

  3. ASP Research Achievement Award. American Society of Pharmacognosy Web site. Available at http://www.phcog.org/awards/ res_ach.html. Accessed August 14, 2007.

  4. The Annual Report Presentation Abstracts. ASP Web Site. Available at http://www.phcog.org/AnnualMtg/2007/Abstracts2007.pdf. Accessed August 15, 2007.

  5. Dentali S. 48th annual meeting of the American society of pharmacognosy: natural products—research, development, and use. AHPA Report. August 2007;20.