Sister Angela Hoffman, OSB, a University of Portland chemistry professor, has been chosen a 2012 American Chemical Society (ACS) Fellow and was recognized for her “outstanding achievements in and contributions to Science, the Profession, and the Society.” Election as an American Chemical Society Fellow requires a peer nomination as well as a formal committee review.“It’s pretty awesome to be recognized in this way,” Hoffman said. “I am very honored to be included on the list.”
Hoffman was one of 96 recognized in August at the Fall ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia.
A professor at the University since 1989, Hoffman has worked with students on more than 150 undergraduate projects related to the ingredient paclitaxel, found originally in the rare and rapidly vanishing yew tree, native to the Pacific Northwest.
Hoffman’s research of paclitaxel involves the anti-cancer drug Taxol, which fights cancerous cell growth. The drug (marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb) is used to treat ovarian cancer, breast cancer, the AIDS-related cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma, and other conditions.
She currently has four patents from 1997, 2003, 2006, and 2010 all pertaining to recovering taxanes (including Taxol) from soil around yew trees and other plants that are grown to produce Taxol.
Hoffman most recently has been working with undergraduate as well as high school and junior high school students on various research projects. One such project includes extracting pigments from Dahlia flowers, which could kill cancer cells. Hoffman and her students are waiting to hear the results from the Oregon National Primate Research Center.
“We are optimistic that it will work,” Hoffman said. “Now we are just waiting and hoping everything works together perfectly.”
Hoffman and students are also working on an extract from the yew tree that kills insects as well as extracting compounds from magnolia tree fruit.
A big discovery in her research came from examining hazel nut trees. Muck like the yew tree, hazel nut trees are able to produce Taxol.
“We sequenced the genome of a Taxol-producing fungus isolated from a hazel nut to find out whether it uses similar genes. We thought it would make Taxol the same way as the yew tree does,” Hoffman said. “To our surprise, the genes were quite different event though both produce the same product.”
Hoffman recently submitted her findings to a publication.
Last spring, she took a sabbatical at the University of Arizona where she worked with natural products extracting materials that could kill bacteria and cancer cells.
“During my time away, I got a lot of research done,” Hoffman said. “With my research, I just keep thinking of new ideas all of the time.”
Hoffman is currently teaching biochemistry and general chemistry classes as well as research labs.
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