Purposeful plants aid human health

Guido Pauli

Plants play “an invaluable role in human development,” says Guido Pauli. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services


The University Scholar award, now in its 30th year, honors UIC faculty who are among the best in their fields — those who show superior performance and great promise in research and teaching. Winners receive $15,000 per year for three years.


Guido Pauli sees more than beauty in plants. He is conducting groundbreaking research on how they can aid human health.

“Throughout history, plants have been used for countless purposes,” says Pauli, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy. “Nutrients, essential factors and therapeutics, but also toxins, have given them an invaluable role in human development.”

Pauli, co-director of the UIC/NIH Botanical Center for Dietary Supplements Research, is developing new ways to identify what’s in botanicals and how they work. He developed quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance (qNMR) methodologies to evaluate the purity of a wide variety of natural products, including hops, licorice, eucalyptus and wild yam, as well as for the anti-TB drug he is developing in UIC’s Institute for Tuberculosis Research, where he is associate director.

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy has become the best technique for determining the structure of organic compounds for the past 50 years. One major advantage for the work with precious natural product samples is that NMR is nondestructive and important data can be obtained from samples weighing less than a milligram.

Pauli has developed collaborations in natural products research that directly benefit investigators on campus and throughout the world. He recently established a translational research project with the Guanxi Institute of Botany in Guilin, China, where he is a Bagui scholar and visiting professor.

He also holds three patents, including one for the potential anti-tuberculosis drug.

The Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research is the oldest in the U.S. devoted to establishing the safety and effectiveness of botanical dietary supplements. It is the only such center continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1999.

Judy Bolton, professor and head of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy, says Pauli is “uniquely qualified” for the University Scholar Award.

“Guido is an outstanding scientist, and he actively participates in training the next generation of natural product chemists,” Bolton says. “He deserves to be recognized as a University Scholar.”


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