Posted in Inquirer
Last updated 03:03am (Mla time) 10/28/2007
MANILA, Philippines—The man whose research led to a groundbreaking medical discovery—a drug a thousand times more potent than morphine but without its drawbacks—will be conferred an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, the University of the Philippines.
Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera, who has been named 2007 Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation at Harvard University, will receive the degree of doctor of science honoris causa on Jan. 16 at the UP Film Center, where he will also deliver a lecture as part of the UP Centennial celebrations.
Olivera and his research team, which includes National Scientist Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz of the UP Marine Science Institute, studied toxins in poisonous cone snails collected in the Philippines and discovered biomolecules called conotoxins.
Prialt, a chronic pain-relief drug, is the result of this study. It is a synthetic compound derived from conotoxins and is widely prescribed to cancer patients.
The significance of this discovery is that while conotoxins are more powerful than morphine, they do not induce tolerance. (Cancer patients who take morphine for chronic pain develop tolerance for the drug, so in the long run, increased amounts of morphine are prescribed to treat the same amount of pain.)
Because of his contributions to biochemistry, particularly his breakthrough research in conotoxins, Olivera is acknowledged and recognized by the international scientific community.
This year alone, apart from being named Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation, he was also elected to the American Philosophical Society and became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
‘He never really left’
Olivera has “never really left UP,” according to UP President Emerlinda R. Roman.
Since he obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry summa cum laude in 1960, and despite having lived in the United States for many years as a sought-after professor and researcher, he has continued to maintain his relationship with his alma mater.
He still comes to UP twice a year to deliver lectures and conduct training seminars for students and faculty.
And as a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Utah, he makes his laboratory available to UP’s budding scientists.
Olivera recently accepted from UP the position of adjunct professor. This will enable him to continue doing research with the university’s students and faculty.
Olivera obtained his doctoral degree in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1966 and did postdoctoral work at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Arlyn VCD Palisoc Romualdo, Contributor
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