Antarctic explorer, Professor Bill Baker of the University of South Florida, has been appointed as Visiting Professor of Marine Biodiscovery at NUI Galway through funding from the Beaufort Research Awards for one year.
Marine Biodiscovery forms an integral part of the strategic programme for the marine sector – SeaChange, which is coordinated by the Marine Institute. The funding of the Professorship of Marine Biodiscovery at NUI Galway by the Beaufort Marine Research Awards is a critical component of the strategy to develop overall Irish research capacity and to position Ireland’s marine sector within a global knowledge-based economy. The Beaufort awards have been used to support research of international standing by making funding available for Principal Investigators and a number of researchers.
Professor Baker has established his international reputation in Marine Biodiscovery by searching for chemicals in the Antarctic. This programme at the Antarctic has been funded by the National Science Foundation in the USA for the last 24 years and now Professor Baker will turn his attention to the Irish shores in terms of searching for molecular treasures. The chemical compound Palmerolide A, one of the treasures discovered originally in the Antarctic by Professor Baker, is extremely promising against skin cancer and exploration of the Irish waters could potentially lead to a compound with similar potential.
Professor Baker will provide expertise in the area of marine natural products chemistry in searching for molecular treasures from the Irish waters. The isolation and identification of novel secondary metabolites from marine organisms (Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryotes ) in Irish marine environments is still underexplored and provides an opportunity to identify bioactive agents of interest in the context of drug discovery, functional foods and other biotechnological applications. In a European and world-wide context, Ireland’s marine biodiversity is exceptionally high for its size: for example, 7.5% of the world’s marine benthic algae are found in Irish waters.
Professor Baker will conduct Chemistry, Bioassays and Biofermentation activities during his period in Ireland. It is hoped that discoveries made during the Professorship in Ireland will lead to a better understanding of the chemistry of marine species and hopefully produce pharmaceuticals that fight killer diseases.
Professor Baker will also deliver a public lecture at NUI Galway entitled ‘Treasures from the Antarctic Ice’ on Monday, 10 November at 7.15pm in the Kirwan Theatre, Arts/Science Building. During the lecture Professor Baker will describe the challenges of carrying out research in Antarctica but show the potential rewards of this research. This will be linked to his efforts in searching the Irish waters for novel chemical agents could potentially lead to new molecules to treat killer diseases. To register for the lecture visit http://billbakeratnuig.rsvpify.com.