Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, was recently awarded the American Society of Pharmacognosy's (ASP) Research Achievement Award. The award was bestowed upon Dr. Farnsworth during ASP's 46th annual meeting, held July 23-27, 2005, in Corvallis, OR.1
Professor Farnsworth is a world-renowned pharmacognosist and director of the Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a multidisciplinary program he established in 1982. He is also a UIC distinguished professor, research professor of pharmacognosy, and senior research scholar at UIC.2
"When you receive an honor from your peers like this one, it's much more meaningful than other things," Dr. Farnsworth said of the award (oral communication, September, 2005). "Also, this will be the first time a pharmacognosist has gotten the award after 18 years. That was kind of nice." He was referring to the fact that although ASP was originally founded (by Farnsworth, the late Varro E. Tyler, and several others) to promote pharmacognosy, in recent years much of ASP's focus has drifted towards natural products chemistry and marine biology, both important sources of new medicinal agents.
ASP has selected a recipient for its research award annually since 1985. Candidates for the award—which includes an honorarium of $5,000—must be members of the society who have made significant contributions to research on natural products.3 The ASP Research Achievement Award has been renamed in honor of Dr. Farnsworth, who is also a former president of ASP. All subsequent awards will be titled the Norman R. Farnsworth Research Achievement Award in Natural Products (N. Farnsworth, e-mail, October 11, 2005).
Dr. Farnsworth delivered a speech at ASP's awards banquet titled "A New Paradigm in Pharmacognosy Research—Botanical Dietary Supplements." In his speech, he encouraged further research and testing of natural products, particularly botanical dietary supplements, as treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions. He spoke of recent clinical trials in this field, as well as the various works being performed by such groups as the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, of which he is the director. Dr. Farnsworth's speech will likely be published in the March 2006 issue of ASP's official journal, the Journal of Natural Products.4
According to Dr. Farnsworth, one of the benefits of working with natural products is the relative speed at which treatments can be developed, in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs. "Most researchers will never see their work put into use in humans," he said (oral communication, September 2005). "In the work we do, we get to complete all this research and it's in the clinics now, already helping people."
Dr. Farnsworth said one of his proudest accomplishments is the invention of NAPRALERT in 1975. NAPRALERT is the world's largest database on natural products, featuring information on the ethnomedical or traditional uses, chemistry, and pharmacology of medicinal plants, microbes, marine organisms, and fungi. Prof. Farnsworth is also co-founding editor of the journal Phytomedicine and a founding member of the American Botanical Council's Board of Trustees.2 He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Paris, Upsalla University, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences.
"Norman Farnsworth is like a force of nature," said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. "His vast volume of work is known and he is respected by almost every medicinal plant researcher in the world. Not only has he prolifically authored or co-authored over 1,600 research papers, he has also produced over 90 doctorates and 20 post-doctoral fellows in his career. There is no one in the medicinal plant research community—anywhere—who is more deserving of this recognition," Blumenthal added.
1. ASP 2005 Meeting Highlights. American Society of Pharmacognosy Web site. Available at: http://www.phcog.org/AnnualMtg/2005/Highlights.html. Accessed October 7, 2005.
2. Hunt L. Farnsworth named distinguished professor at University of Illinois. HerbalGram. 2001;No. 53:16.
3. ASP Research Achievement Award. American Society of Pharmacognosy Web site. Available at: http://www.phcog.org/awards/res_ach.html. Accessed October 7, 2005.
4. Farnsworth N. A New Paradigm in Pharmacognosy Research—Botanical Dietary Supplements. Power-point presented at: 46th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy; July 23-27, 2005; Corvallis, OR.