William Gerwick (right), professor at Skaggs and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, collaborates on a natural compounds library.

Cataloging Natural Compounds to MEET BUSINESS NEEDS

The vast diversity of natural compounds housed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego holds immeasurable potential for biomedical applications. Extracted by Scripps researchers on diving expeditions to Fiji, Panama, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and other remote destinations, the compounds carry the hope that their molecular makeup could lead to drugs that treat diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and various forms of cancer.

George Nicola, M.B.A., also sees great potential in the natural-compound collection but from a different perspective. A postdoctoral scholar at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego and recent graduate from the university’s Rady School of Management, Nicola, along with Scripps and Skaggs professor William Gerwick, Ph.D., believe the potential of the marine resources could be maximized by being organized and catalogued in a natural-compound library at Scripps in collaboration with the Skaggs School.

Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences postdoctoral scholar and Rady School of Management graduate George Nicola

This collection is currently inaccessible to drug companies, but Nicola and Gerwick aim to build a suitable format so that companies can easily screen the vast group of compounds.

Such a partnership between the university and outside pharmaceutical companies could result in a massive revenue stream for the university. Part of the revenue could go to the governments where the sources were collected, supporting efforts to protect and preserve natural marine resources for the future.

More than seventy-five of San Diego’s leading CEOs and other business leaders agree that the idea has merit. In 2009, the Scripps Natural Compounds Library idea took first place in a science-meets-business competition jointly organized by Scripps and the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), a global business education and networking association. Nicola will use the $10,000 prize to seed a start-up company, and YPO members are helping him develop the business model.

In 2009 the Scripps Natural Compounds Library idea took first place in a science-meets-business competition jointly organized by Scripps and the Young Presidents’ Organization.