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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 27, 2003

UI Professor To Discuss Herbal Products Nov. 1

Herbal products will be the subject of a 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 presentation, "Herbal Products: They're Organic But Are They Safe?" by David Wiemer, professor and chair of chemistry in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall.

The free, public lecture and discussion session is part of the college's annual Saturday Scholars series.

Although herbal products are touted as natural - and therefore benign - remedies for a variety of illnesses and conditions, questions remain about their safety. Wiemer plans to discuss whether there is a scientific basis for the supposed safety of herbal products, especially in light of the fact that some natural products are useful because they are highly toxic.

"Many of the agents used in cancer chemotherapy were first isolated from plants, and no one would imagine treating themselves with one of these drugs. Yet many people choose to take herbal supplements because they assume that won't do any harm," Wiemer said.

Wiemer, who joined the faculty of the UI chemistry department in 1978, is interested in the isolation, characterization and synthesis of biologically active natural products, and in the field of chemical ecology. His past research projects have included studies on the chemical basis of host-plant resistance to defoliation by leafcutter ants, and natural insecticides and anti-fungal agents in general. He currently is involved in chemical synthesis of natural products with potential anticancer activity, as well as collaborative efforts to develop nucleotide analogues for treatment of cancers that have developed resistance to current clinical agents.

Born and raised in southern Wisconsin, Wiemer received his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1976 for research in synthetic organic chemistry under the direction of Professor Nelson J. Leonard, and then continued his career with postdoctoral study at Cornell University under the direction of Professor Jerrold Meinwald. His honors include a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral fellowship, a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a UI Faculty Scholar Award and a UI Collegiate Teaching Award. He recently was named a Collegiate Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and received the Regents' Award for Faculty Excellence.

The final lecture in the 2003 Saturday Scholars series, "Maps and their Makers: Decidedly Deliberate Deceptions and Distortions," will be given by Marc Armstrong, professor and chair of geography, on Nov. 15.

Saturday Scholars was developed by Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, gives members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. All presentations begin at 10 a.m. in Room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest.

Additional information is available at:

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,