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Distinguished Professor of Oceanography
Founding Director, Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine
William Fenical is a distinguished professor of oceanography and director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. His research involves marine natural products chemistry and marine pharmacology with an additional interest in chemical defense mechanisms in marine organisms.
Born in Chicago, Fenical received a BS from California State Polytechnic University, an MS from San Jose State University, and a PhD in organic chemistry from UC Riverside.
Prior to joining Scripps as a marine research chemist, Fenical taught at San Jose State University, UC Riverside, and San Bernardino Valley College. He also spent one year as a research scientist for Shell Development Company.
Fenical investigates the isolation and identification of chemical materials from marine plants, animals, and microorganisms that may have potential pharmaceutical or agricultural uses. He is also interested in how naturally produced chemical compounds affect the ecology of tropical marine ecosystems.
His latest research has uncovered potential new drugs from the ocean. From the seafloor near the Bahamas, he discovered a bacterium that produces chemicals that, during controlled experiments, have been shown to inhibit the growth of melanoma and colon cancer cells, the herpes simplex, and AIDS viruses. His research team found a bacterium from a jellyfish that can kill certain human cancer cells and may also control the inflammation associated with arthritis and asthma. Fenical also has discovered a new anti-inflammatory drug derived from soft coral. This drug, Pseudopterosin, is currently used in skin creams and is in line for development for the treatment of human skin diseases.
He received the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products from the American Chemical Society. Fenical received the National Cancer Institute’s highly respected Merit Award for his discovery of the production of new antibiotics and antitumor agents by deep ocean sediment bacteria.
Fenical was awarded the prestigious Silver Medal Award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology for his extensive achievements in marine chemical ecology. He received the Senior Queens Fellowship in Marine Science from the Australian government, and the Pauley Fund Award for research at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. He is past chairman of the Gordon Research Conference of Marine Natural Products Chemistry, and served as a member of the Bioorganic and Natural Products Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. He has also served as president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology and the American Society of Pharmacognosy.
He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Pharmacognosy, the American Society of Chemical Ecology, and the Western Society of Naturalists. He founded the Consortium for Marine Biotechnology in San Diego, and is on the editorial board of seven major international journals in his field. Fenical has published more than 330 scientific articles on marine chemistry research. He is listed in American Men in Science and Who’s Who in the West.