UC chemists share 2007 research medal
Professors Murray Munro and John Blunt (Chemistry) are joint winners of the University of Canterbury Research Medal for 2007.
The medal is awarded annually for excellence in research and will be presented at the 21 December graduation ceremony.
The pair has been described by their international peers as an inseparable team, whose names are synonymous with work of the very highest standards of excellence. One supporter of their nomination for the award credited the pair with effectively creating and dominating the field of marine natural products chemistry in New Zealand. Another described them as great friends who care deeply about their subject.
Each has been employed in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Canterbury for almost 40 years. By the mid-1970s they were aware of the rapidly growing worldwide interest, by both researchers and large pharmaceutical companies, in marine organisms as a major source of lead compounds for drugs. So began a collaboration of more than 30 years which has resulted in around 20 patents and more than 100 highly cited papers in the marine natural products field.
Recently they have extended their range of investigations to include compounds present in New Zealand and Malaysian terrestrial micro-organisms in association with Associate Professor Tony Cole (School of Biological Sciences), with Professor Munro now having around 150 publications to his name and Professor Blunt over 200. This output has been achieved in the course of training around 30 PhD students and collaborations with post-doctoral fellows from abroad.
The achievements of the Munro/Blunt collaboration go much further than published science. Seeing the need for a major database in this field they created what is known “MarinLit”. This large database is regarded as the most useful of all search systems in marine natural products today.
Professor Munro and Professor Blunt said they were very honoured to be awarded the Research Medal and it should be seen as recognition of the contributions made by “many talented graduate students and post-doctoral fellows”.
“Our achievements have also been greatly assisted by a very supportive environment within the Department of Chemistry, through interactions with academic and technical staff colleagues, and the provision of excellent instrumental facilities,” Professor Blunt said.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Sharp congratulated the pair on what he said was a richly deserved award.
“Their joint research work at the University has resulted in over 20 patents and more than 100 scientific papers. Not only have they achieved scientific recognition but also significant engagement with industry in the development of pharmaceuticals.”
The Research Medal announcement came as the pair were also named joint winners of the Paul J Scheuer Award for 2008. This award has been made biennially since 1992 for contributions to the field of marine natural products, and this is the first time it has been awarded jointly.
Professor Munro and Professor Blunt’s award recognises more than three decades of contributions and inspiration to marine natural products research.
Dr Blunt said the award is the highest recognition researchers can get in this field of international study.
“To have this coming at the same time as the Research Medal announcement is a great honour for both of us.”