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K.C. Nicolaou to Receive National Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest for Research in Natural Products

La Jolla, CA, March 30, 1998 -- K.C. Nicolaou, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Chemistry, and Member, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, will receive the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest for outstanding achievement in scientific work which contributes to the public well being and "in recognition of his revolutionary approach to natural science". Sponsored annually by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, the award will be presented in a ceremony at Harvard University on April 8, 1998.

Nicolaou's research interest focuses on chemical synthesis, molecular design and recognition, and the biological actions of molecules. He is perhaps best known for his work on the synthesis of Taxol, currently marketed as a chemotherapy agent in the treatment of ovarian cancer. In addition, his laboratory has synthesized the neurotoxin responsible for the paralysis and death of dolphins and other marine life in the devastating "red tide" epidemics. His synthesis of the immuno-suppressant compound, rapamycin, has contributed to the understanding of its action in inhibiting the immuno-rejection mechanism, especially in organ transplantation.

Nicolaou received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of London in 1969 and a Ph.D. from University College, London in 1972. He moved to the U.S. for postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University and at Harvard University. In 1976 he was appointed to the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he became the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry. In 1989, he received dual appointments at The Scripps Research Institute and at the University of California, San Diego.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Nicolaou is the recipient of many national and international awards, including the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, the Janssen prize for Creativity in Organic Synthesis, the Rhone-Poulenc Silver Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products, the Chemical Pioneer Award from the National Institute of Chemists, the ACS New York Section's Nichols Medal, and the Linus Pauling Award. In addition, he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The first Gustavus John Esselen Award was presented in 1987 to F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina for their discovery of the effect of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. Past awardees include Carl Djerassi for his work on birth control drugs, Kary Mullis, for development of the polymerase chain reaction, and Rangaswamy Srinivasan, for his discovery of the use of the ultraviolet laser for medical applications in ophthalmology and angioplasty.

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