- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Cristina Davis, the Warren and Leta Geidt Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NIA honors and encourages academic inventions that benefit society. Between the two UC Davis faculty members, they hold 42 patents: Davis with 12; and Leal with 28 Japanese and 2 U.S. patents.
Davis is a world leader in trace chemical sensing, while Leal is a leading global scientist in the field of insect olfaction and communication, investigating how insects detect odors, how they detect host and nonhost plant matter, and how they communicate within their species.
Leal's research, spanning three decades, focuses on insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid and the orange navelworm. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
We remember when Leal and a group of 18 students hosted a Zika Public Awareness Symposium in 2016 on the UC Davis campus. It was an amazing symposium that drew attention to Aedes aeqytpi, which transmits the disease. Soon thereafter, Brazilian-born Leal and his colleagues in Brazil, detected the Zika virus in wild-caught Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes in Recife, the epicenter of the Zika epidemic.
We also remember when Leal identified the sex pheromones of the navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella), a pest of almonds, figs, pomegranates and walnuts, the major hosts. This led to practical applications of pest management techniques in the fields.
Those are just several examples of the work he does. And still, he found time to co-chair the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting, "Entomology Without Borders," in Orlando, Fla., that drew the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline: 6682 attendees from 102 countries.
We're not sure how Leal can find the time to do all this (see news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology). We figure he must have a clone! Make that multiple clones!
At any rate, Leal is the second faculty member affiliated with the entomology department to be selected an NIA fellow. The other scientist: Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hammock is the co-founder and chief executive officer of EicOsis LLC, a Davis-based company that is developing a non-opiate drug to relieve inflammatory pain in companion animals and target chronic neuropathic pain in humans and horses.
As Hammock said: “When Walter Leal reached UC Davis (in 2000), he came with the reputation of being a 'one man army in research.' This reputation was well deserved. I know of no one at UC Davis who matches Walter in taking his remarkable fundamental advances in science and translating them to increase the safety and magnitude of world food production.”
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Research lab, yes. With colleagues, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students, yes.
Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, has just been selected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society.
He is now one of five UC Davis NAI fellows, including Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, who was inducted in 2012; Jerry Woodall in 2013; and Kyriacos A. Athanasiou and M. Saif Islam), both elected this year with Hammock in the 170-member Class of 2014 fellows.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has made major innovations in multiple fields. Most recently his laboratory found potent enzyme inhibitors that dramatically reduce inflammation, inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain. He is the founder and CEO of EicOsis, and through EicOsis, the compounds are in clinical trials for companion animals and the Pre-Investigational tional New Drug Application (Pre-IND) Consultation Program for neuropathic pain in human diabetics. Hammock is developing both enzyme inhibitors and natural products as drugs for use in the United States and developing countries. In agriculture, his laboratory developed the first recombinant viruses as greeninsecticides, while in environmental chemistry, they pioneered the use of immunodiagnostics for environmental analysis and biosensor development, currently applying alpaca nanobodies to sensor technology.
Hammock is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Anayltical Laboratory.
Hammock, who received his bachelor of science degree magna cum laude from Louisiana State University in entomology and chemistry, and his doctorate from UC Berkeley in entomology and toxicology, working in xenobiotic metabolism, describes himself as a basic scientist who “sometimes fines something interesting.” He attributes his success to “having wonderful colleagues and students.”
He also describes himself as “an avid, if incompetent hiker and climber,” and occasionally teaches white-water kayaking with UC Davis Outdoor Adventures. By the way, he and his lab also holds an annual water balloon battle outside Briggs Hall every summer. It's usually amounts to a 10-minute battle because the Hammock lab works hard and plays hard.
NAI, founded in 2010, now has 414 fellows representing more than 150 prestigious research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutions. Included: 61 presidents and senior leadership of research universities and non-profit research institutes, 208 members of the other National Academies, 21 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 16 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, 10 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Science, 21 Nobel Laureates, 11 Lemelson-MIT prize recipients, 107 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and 62 fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Congratulations, Professor Hammock! Getting elected “is a high honor bestowed upon academic innovators and inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions and innovations that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society,” NAI officials said.