Bioprospecting

Caterpillars

Examining the origins of natural products and their role in ecology, medicine, and agriculture.

Is there a cure for cancer in the Great Basin? Are there undiscovered anti-fungal mixtures in Great Basin plants, insects, and microorganisms? Antibiotics? Natural insecticides? The world renowned Chemical Ecology group at the University of Nevada Reno is poised to answer these and related questions and to reap benefits of Nevada ecosystems that go far beyond mineral resources. This group of chemists, ecologists, biochemists, and statisticians includes over a dozen faculty who fully utilize cutting edge tools to examine the origins of natural products and their role in ecology, medicine, and agriculture.

Our goal is to conduct high quality research focused on some of the most important basic and applied questions in chemistry, biology, and ecology, with bioprospecting in Nevada's Great Basin as a guiding theme. Over half of the worlds therapeutics are derived from natural sources (including plants, animals, and microorganisms) most of which have never been studied in the Great Basin. The focus on this relatively unexplored region of the world will yield novel natural products with therapeutic and agricultural potential.

Funding will allow development of a scientific center of excellence that will strengthen collaborations with an international cohort of scientists representing over 7 countries, and it will enhance the existing state of the art laboratory, training, and consulting facilities. Our multi-disciplinary understanding of the chemistry, genomics, and evolution of biologically relevant small molecules, uniquely positions our group to develop novel approaches to the discovery of compounds that have unique applications to multiple industries and economic endeavors in Nevada. We will search for these molecules in plants, fungi, diverse microbial communities, and even venom in hundreds of species of bees, wasps, amphibians, and reptiles native to Nevada.

Nevada: A world leader in research at the unique interface between chemistry and biology.

While the benefits of the research to health and agriculture are global, the impacts on Nevada are substantive. This center of excellence will establish Nevada as the world's leader for conducting research at this unique interface between chemistry and biology.

  • The natural resources of Great Basin will be illuminated through scientific and popular publications, community outreach, citizen science, and museum exhibits.
  • The center will bring international recognition to Nevada by serving as an epicenter to conduct chemical-ecology research and arid-land bioprospecting.
  • The job and economic benefits to the state of Nevada include direct employment of scientists and direct benefits to major employers in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries in Nevada. Partnership with industrial collaborators will lead to recruitment of new companies to Nevada. Discoveries of new drug candidates and insecticides will stimulate the growth of related start-up companies and the licensing of University intellectual property rights.