Highlights from the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy


The 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP), focusing on drug discovery from natural products, was held at Cooper Mountain, Colorado from July 25-29. The meeting attracted more than 600 scientists from all over the world. Three faculty members of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy of the College of Pharmacy, and members of the 2015 ASP annual meeting's organizing committee, developed symposia, and chaired or co-chaired sessions that contributed to the overall scientific value of the meeting. Since the detection of the anticancer compound Taxol® (paclitaxel) from an extract prepared from a fermentation broth of the endophytic fungus Pestalotiopsis microspora of a yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), the interest in finding bioactive molecules from microbial associates of higher plants has continued to rise.

To share current updates in the field, Harinantenaina Liva Rakotondraibe, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor), organized and chaired a session entitled “Bioactive Metabolites from Plant Epiphytic and Endophytic Microbes”. Four international speakers were invited in this session: two from the U.S., one from Germany, and one from Canada.

Also, A. Douglas Kinghorn, Ph.D., D.Sc. (Professor and Jack L. Beal Chair) organized the symposium “Natural Products Anticancer Drug Lead Discovery in Honor of Richard G. Powell”. While working at National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), USDA, Peoria, IL, Dr. Powell and his colleagues isolated the plant alkaloid, harringtonine, which in 2012 became an approved antileukemic drug (omacetaxine mepesuccinate, Synribo™). In addition to a short presentation by Dr. Powell, this symposium featured talks by three other internationally recognized authorities on natural products anticancer drug discovery, and was chaired by Dr. Susan Band Horwitz (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY). In addition to his role as a leading phytochemist, for 23 years Dr. Powell was Associate Editor of the Journal of Natural Products.

James R. Fuchs, Ph.D. (Associate Professor) organized and chaired a new session entitled “The ASP Younger Members Research Spotlight”. This session was created to give early stage researchers an opportunity to highlight their work through short oral talks in addition to their subsequent poster presentations. The talks were intended to increase the visibility of these younger members and foster communication with other researchers in the field, including potential future collaborators and employers.

A total of 10 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers representing a diverse cross section of the work currently being done in the field of natural products research were selected from labs across the country and participated in the session.