William Gerwick

Marine Natural Products Drug Discovery and Biosynthesis

Dr. Gerwick’s research focuses on exploring the unique natural products of marine algae and cyanobacteria for useful biomedical properties. These chemically prolific organisms are sources of numerous highly unusual metabolites, and the Gerwick group has been involved in their discovery and evaluation in the areas of cancer, inflammation, infectious disease including tropical diseases such as malaria and leishmaniasis, neurochemical pathways, as well as agricultural uses. The Gerwick group has also examined the pathways of biosynthesis of many of the compounds they have discovered over the years, and pioneered the characterization of their origins at the molecular genetic and genomic levels. More recently, his group has also applied their chemical and genetic approaches to the goal of obtaining biofuels from cultured microalgae.

Dr. Gerwick’s group uses SCUBA to collect marine samples from around the world, such as Panama, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea, and grows many of these life forms in the laboratory in La Jolla.

Extracts of these organisms are tested for bioactivity, and the active compounds are isolated and structures defined using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS). Highly interesting metabolites are developed through collaboration with academic and industrial researchers, and biosynthetic pathways determined using gene cloning and other molecular biological methods.

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