2012 Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
George R. "Bob" Pettit
George R. Pettit (B.S., Chemistry, '52), an organic chemist who pioneered the search for anti-cancer compounds in marine organisms and terrestrial insects and plants, will be honored Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in the Compton Union Building (CUB) Auditorium, where he will deliver a free address, "From the Indian Ocean to Global Clinics: Discovering new paths to improve cancer treatment." Everyone is welcome.
"Those who know of Bob Pettit consider him a pioneer, innovator, and simply a giant in the field of cancer drug discovery," says Cliff Berkman, a WSU organic chemist who also works on anti-cancer agents. "More than anyone, Bob successfully translated his early fascination with nature's creations to a professional career devoted to discovering and developing new drugs to battle nature's most grievous of diseases."
Over six decades, Pettit, 83, secured more than five dozen U.S. patents and several hundred foreign patents for anti-cancer compounds, while publishing more than a dozen books and about 800 peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Writing for Pettit's nomination, Michael Boyd, director of the Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of Southern Alabama, said Pettit "is at, indeed has established and defined, the cutting edge of his field. There is no other individual in the world who can claim anywhere near a comparable number of new anticancer compounds discovered and placed into preclinical or clinical drug development."
Pettit's fascination with potential natural cancer fighters dates to his days as a teenager on the New Jersey shore. He worked in a hospital pathology lab, where he first saw the ravages of cancer, while observing sea life in tide pools and noting that various creatures never seemed sick, let alone afflicted with cancer. Somewhere in those creatures, he reasoned, could be anti-cancer compounds evolved over millions of years.
The Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor the University bestows on our alumni.