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Che named first Farnsworth Professor by Sam Hostettler

Interim Vice Chancellor Jerry Bauman bestows the Norman R. Farnsworth Professor of Pharmacognosy medal for the first time to Chun-Tao Che.

Photography by Kathryn Marchetti

Looking around the room, Chun-Tao Che, phd’ 82, saw many of the celebrated scientists under whom he trained 33 years ago at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and he felt like a student again.

prominent pharmacognosist of our time. This award honors the career and accomplishments of Dr. Farnsworth as a noted scientist, a caring educator, and a visionary pioneer in modern pharmacognosy.

But he’s not. Today, he is one of them. An investiture ceremony was held last week at Chicago’s University Club to honor Che as the inaugural Norman R. Farnsworth Professor of Pharmacognosy, the first endowed professorship in the 150-year history of the UIC College of Pharmacy. Che is considered one of the top pharmacognosy researchers in the world, especially in the field of traditional Chinese medicine. “This is the most significant highlight of my career, and I am privileged to be the first person awarded this prestigious position,” Che says. “There’s no doubt in my mind Dr. Farnsworth is the most

“As a former UIC student, I am profoundly grateful for the education and training I received, and I feel highly honored to be a member of the pharmacognosy faculty at my alma mater. This new title will keep reminding me of the storied history of UIC’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy.” A native of Hong Kong, Che earned his doctorate in pharmacognosy from UIC in 1982 under the tutelage of Harry Fong. After completing postdoctoral work at Toronto’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Che returned to UIC as a senior research associate—and later, research assistant professor—for Farnsworth.

In 1991, Che returned to China as the founding faculty member in the department of chemistry at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Seven years later he was named the director of the School of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Che has been authenticating and assessing the quality of medicinal herbs for more than 30 years. For the past 20 years, he has been conducting research on how and why traditional medicines work and how they can be incorporated into modern societies. “I believe there is a place for traditional medicine in modern science,” states Che. “For thousands of years, people lived with the help of traditional medicines before so-called Western medicine came to be. So there must be good basis for the use of those medicinal herbs.” To date, research has shown that medicinal herbs do contain many therapeutically active compounds and that further studies are warranted to make use of those pharmaceutically active substances, Che says. There are more than 300,000 plants on earth, and few have been thoroughly researched, says Farnsworth, professor of pharmacognosy and director of the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical and Dietary Supplements Research, also known as the UIC Botanical Center. With the rising popularity of botanicals, research needs to be conducted to learn about their safety.

Chun-Tao Che, a 1982 graduate of the College of Pharmacy, is considered one of the top pharmacognosy researchers in the world and is regarded as an expert in the field of traditional Chinese medicine.

6 | UIC Pharmacist | Summer 2011 |

“Botanical supplements aren’t a research-based industry,” Farnsworth explains. “Millions of Americans take them, but we don’t know how they work or whether they work. For the first time, we’re doing human clinical trials. There’s so much potential for botanicals.”

UIC Pharmacist, Summer 2011  

Magazine for alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

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