Researcher wins early career award


College of Pharmacy researcher Dejan Nikolic studies botanical dietary supplements for women’s health. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services (click on image for larger file size)

Dejan Nikolic, research assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy in the College of Pharmacy, received an international early career award for studies of plant medicinal chemistry.

The Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award is presented annually by the Phytochemical Society of North America.

Nikolic is a co-investigator in the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research.

His work focuses on botanical dietary supplements for women’s health. He uses modern liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to determine the structure of active plant ingredients, their bioavailability, metabolic pathways and potential toxicity.

He also looks for active ingredients in clinical specimens collected from patients enrolled in clinical trials of plant compounds.

His current research focuses on the phytochemistry of black cohosh, a popular dietary supplement for women seeking alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms.

Nikolic and his colleagues recently discovered 73 different metabolites of black cohosh, many of them new natural products.

The identified compounds belong to structural groups that include several classes of alkaloids, Nikolic said.

“Alkaloids are among the most bioactive compounds found in plants, so discovering so many of these will certainly shed a lot of light on our understanding the pharmacological profile of black cohosh,” he said.

Neish was a pioneer in the synthesis and use of radiolabeled precursors and a major contributor to the field of plant natural product biosynthetic pathways.

Nikolic said he was honored to win the award as “a recognition of the quality of research carried out in the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical and Dietary Supplements Research.”

Funds supporting the award were donated by the Phytochemical Society of North America, the National Science Research Council of Canada, Pfizer Corporation and private donors. The first awards were presented in 1999.

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