"Mr. GARAMENDI. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Bruce Hammock and his exemplary interdisciplinary career. He has been a legendary figure in his field for over four decades and his efforts have made critical advancements in our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, non- addictive solutions to managing chronic pain, and environmental conservation.
"Dr. Hammock's recent research on regulatory enzyme inhibitors and their effect on neuroinflammation has reshaped the way we understand both the cause and cure of the degenerative disease. Alongside his UC Davis team, Dr. Hammock partnered with Baylor University as well as other researchers across the globe to study soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) and its effect on the brains of mice. Dr. Hammock's study found that inhibiting sEH may offer a new pathway to reduce neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration; leading to a breakthrough in recognizing the potential benefits of sEH inhibitors in Alzheimer's treatment.
"Groundbreaking research is nothing new in the world of Dr. Hammock. He is currently a distinguished professor at UC Davis in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and part of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. During his time at the university Hammock has been at the helm of the Superfund Research Program for over three decades--a government-funded program focused on finding solutions to the complex health and environmental issues linked with the nation's hazardous waste sites.
"In addition to his invaluable contributions to science, Dr. Hammock has taken up another admirable charge--to make science and learning fun. Every year he and his lab organize a water balloon fight between faculty and students on the lawn of UC Davis' Briggs Hall where other labs and bystanders join in on the action. This event is a small glimpse into Hammock's unique character--one described by colleagues as enthusiastic, creative, and hard-working. Dr. Hammock's limitless drive and curiosity contribute both to the stellar reputation of UC Davis as an esteemed research institute and California's 3rd Congressional District as a whole. We wish him all the best in his endeavors and look forward to seeing all that he accomplishes in the future."
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He is the founding director (1987-present) of the UC Davis NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Superfund Research Program and is a founding member (1990-present) of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Hammock co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain. Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years.
Hammock is the founder and chief executive officer of the Davis-based pharmaceutical company, EicOsis LLC, formed in 2011 to develop an orally active non-addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain for humans, as well as a version in development for treating painful conditions in companion animals. A drug candidate known as EC5026 and now in human trials, targets a novel pathway to block the underlying cause of certain types of pain
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He 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 is the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry. The Eicosanoid Research Foundation recently honored him for work on oxidized lipids.
Hammock and his laboratory are now deeply involved in COVID-19 research. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences today posted their work: "Biomarker Suggests Severity of COVD-19 Respiratory Distress."
"In a study funded in part by NIEHS, researchers reported April 1 that certain fatty acids in the blood of COVID-19 patients may predict the severity of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)," the article began. "The fatty acids may also offer a target for treatment. ARDS, characterized by fluid buildup in the lungs, is the second leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
"Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., longtime NIEHS grantee and director of the NIEHS-funded University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, led the study. His team examined six COVID-19 patients over five days and found that those with severe lung involvement showed higher levels of certain fatty acids compared with healthy control subjects. These fatty acids, called leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols, are known to play a role in inflammatory disease and ARDS, but this is the first study of their role in respiratory complications related to COVID-19."
Water Balloon Battles
Insisting that science should be fun, Hammock launched the Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battles nearly 20 years ago on the Briggs Hall lawn (outside his office) as a way to develop camaraderie in his lab; to take a 15-minute break; and to beat the triple-digit heat. The battle, usually waged on a sweltering July afternoon, is basically "15 Minutes of Aim" because that's how long it takes for the 30-some water warriors to toss 2000 water balloons at one another. Stray buckets of water are fair game, too.
Water balloon battle coordinator Christopher Morisseau, who holds the title of "professional researcher" in the Hammock lab, says the annual event is open to "all who want to get wet," which includes students and faculty of other UC Davis labs, spouses, children, and passersby. One year a police officer joined in.
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 water battle. And COVID, coupled with the renovation of Briggs Hall and the grounds, may cancel this year's clash as well. (See images of the 16th annual event, a super-soaker that took place July 12, 2019.)
The tribute to Bruce Hammock in the Congressional Record is well deserved. And it's also good to see the Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle mentioned. How many times have you seen a UC Davis water balloon battle entered in the Congressional Record?
It's one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. Members are elected to NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
Agrawal received his doctorate in population biology in 1999 from UC Davis, working with major professor Richard "Rick" Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Anurag is an inspiration as a scientist and as a person," Karban said. "I've learned a lot from him."
At Cornell, Agrawal is the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He researches the ecology and evolution of interactions between wild plants and their insect pests, including aspects of community interactions, chemical ecology, coevolution and the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
Agrawal is the author of the celebrated book, Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution, published in 2017 by Princeton University Press. The book won a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature and Environment and an award of excellence in gardening and gardens from the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. It was also named one of Forbes.com's 10 best biology books of 2017. Read a review of his Monarchs and Milkweed book from the journal Ecology and read the first chapter here. (You can order the book here.)
As Agrawal said in a Cornell news release, “It's a tremendous honor and totally unexpected. I look forward to representing Cornell and also playing a part in the NAS role of advising the U.S. government on science policy.”
"A key research focus for Agrawal's Phytophagy Lab is the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores," according to the Cornell news release. In an attempt to understand the complexity of communitywide interactions, questions include: What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? And what evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? Agrawal's group is currently focused on three major projects: the community and evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore relationships; factors that make non-native plants successful invaders; and novel opportunities for pest management of potatoes. Recent work on toxin sequestration in monarch butterflies was featured on the cover of the April 20 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
Agrawal holds two degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in conservation biology. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004 as an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology. He advanced to associate professor in 2005, and to full professor in 2010. He was named the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies in 2017.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012), and recipient of the American Society of Naturalist's E.O. Wilson Award in 2019, Agrawal won the Entomological Society of America's 2013 Founders' Memorial Award and delivered the lecture on Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) at ESA's 61st annual meeting, held in Austin, Texas.
Agrawal was at UC Davis in January of 2012 to present a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses." His abstract: "In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation. In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
Members are elected to NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Among those previously elected to NAS: Bruce Hammock, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was elected to NAS in 1999.
Of the more than 30 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States, 547,000 people have died. They are not numbers: they represent family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances who have succumbed to this tragic disease.
And today Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of another surge. Our nation, she says, shows a seven-day average of about 57,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, a 7 percent increase over the last week.
A burning question: Why do some COVID-19 patients recover and some don't?
The laboratory of UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, who holds joint appointments with the Department of Entomology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, may have just pinpointed why.
The team of eight UC researchers, primarily from the Hammock lab, found that four compounds in the blood of COVID-19 patients are highly associated with the disease. Their paper, “Plasma Linoleate Diols Are Potential Biomarkers for Severe COVID-19 Infections,” is published as open access in the current edition of Frontiers in Physiology.
ARDS, characterized by fluid build-up in the lungs, is the second leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients, next to viral pneumonia, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“Different outcomes from COVID-19 infections are both terrifying from a human health perspective and fascinating from a research perspective,” said UC Davis lead author and doctoral candidate Cindy McReynolds of the Hammock lab. “Our data provide an important clue to help determine what impacts the severity of COVID-19 outcomes. Initially, we focused on the immune response and cytokine profile as important drivers in severity, but considering what we now know from our study and others in the field, lipid mediators may be the missing link to answering questions such as why some people are asymptomatic while others die, or why some disease resolves quickly while others suffer from long-haul COVID.”
“The hypothesis advanced in this paper is that because the leukotoxins have been associated with serious illness and death in humans and dogs and the symptoms are those of adult respiratory distress syndrome, these compounds are biomarkers of pulmonary involvement in COVID-19,” Hammock said. “We also think that it is the conversion of leukotoxin to the toxic leukotoxin diol that causes pulmonary and perivascular edema and this could be leading to the respiratory complications.”
“So the leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols,” Hammock said, “are indicators of respiratory problems in COVID-19 patients as plasma biomarkers. They also present a pathway for reducing ARDS in COVID-19 if we could inhibit the soluble epoxide hydrolase, a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of immune resolving fatty acids.”
The UC Davis scientists used clinical data collected from six patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and admitted to the UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, and 44 healthy samples carefully chosen from the healthy control arm of a recently completed clinical study.
The Hammock lab's 50-year research on soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) and its inhibitors led the professor to found and direct EicOsis Human Health, a Davis-based company that is developing a potent soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitor for pain relief. Epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain, inflammation and other processes.
But more recently, the Hammock lab has turned its attention to using sEH as a means to resolve inflammation associated with COVID-19 and the fibrosis that can follow.
The paper is the work of Hammock, McReynolds and Jun Yang (corresponding author) of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and EicOsis Human Health; Irene Cortes-Puch of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, EicOsis Human Health, and the Department of Internal Medicine's Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine; Resmi Ravindran and Imran Khan of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Bruce G. Hammock of UC Davis Department of Veterinary Medicine, Aquatic Health; and Pei-an Betty Shih of the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry.
See the news story on the Department of Entomology and Nematology website at https://bit.ly/3lSWbwf
This is a story of what might have been that never was and never will be and it all has to do with Hammock's cockroaches.
While on the UC Riverside faculty, he worked on two cultures of very large roaches. One was the wingless Madagascar hissing cockroach, Gromphadorhina portentosa, and the other, the South American cave cockroach, Blaberus giganteus with "lovely translucent wings."
When he published a paper on his research, the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture discovered that these 20-year-old cultures had never been registered.
“So, I registered, certified and chugged on with the research,” recalled Hammock. “Then one day both cultures vanished. I was frantic.”
The next day the chair of the department walked into his lab, gave him $10, and told him: “This is your share.”
The chair had sold the roaches that “no one was using” to a Hollywood movie company. “This was the main project in my lab so I went to Hollywood and tried to get the insects back,” Hammock lamented. “No way.”
Hammock's prized roaches, perhaps destined for greatness in the scientific world of cockroach literature, instead starred as evil roaches in the 1975-released movie, “Bug,” an American horror film based on Thomas Page's novel, ”The Hephaestus Plague (1973).”
The plot: A massive earthquake releases mutant cockroaches that create fire by rubbing together their cerci, a pair of small sensory appendages at the end of their abdomen that function somewhat like antennae. However, these mutant roaches die because they cannot survive in the low air pressure on the Earth's surface. Nonetheless, Professor James Parmiter (actor Bradford Dillman, 1930-2018), manages to keep one alive in a pressure chamber and breeds it with a modern cockroach, creating a breed of intelligent, flying, super-cockroaches. Chaos erupts in the small farming community.
Chaos also erupted on the movie set—and not just because some of the actors hated roaches.
“In a twist of fate,” Hammock said, “the movie company had rented the zoology building during the summer at UC Riverside for filming evil cockroaches from the center of the planet that got in people's hair and set them on fire.” In the process, the flames ignited a minor fire in the building.
An image of zoo building and a Hammock-reared roach appear on the IMDB poster. “After they finished shooting, I heard that they released the roaches on campus,” Hammock said.
“I would never find them,” he lamented. "But my son (Tom Hammock) who now is in the film industry loved the story."
Madagascar hissing cockroaches, nicknamed "hissers," measure two to three inches long and are big in the pet trade. They are a popular attraction in the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's live “petting zoo.”
Hammock's roach-rearing days at UC Riverside included giving a hissing roach to his mother because “she wanted a pet so I gave her one.”
“She had for several years as a pet. But she brought it back because she could not get her lady friends to babysit when she traveled. It terrified our cat but finally settled into an uneasy relationship.”
Viewers' description of Bug ranged from “the best of killer bug films” and “a scream fest” to “something that really freaked me out.” One reviewer, noting what happened to Professor Parmiter's wife, wrote “Bug, you light up my wife.”
Looking back, Hammock noted that "The science was actually a serious effort to work out the biosynthetic pathway of the hormone that regulates insect development, and then disrupt it for insect control. Sadly, I only published the first step before Hollywood turned the roaches into science fiction film history."
Yes, that's UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock "resting" in a hammock on the UC Davis campus.
But as his family, friends, students and colleagues can testify, the indefatigable professor, inventor, researcher, scientist, author, CEO and athlete does not rest...much less rest in a hammock!
Cindy McReynolds of the Hammock lab, a UC Davis doctoral student in pharmacology/toxicology, coaxed him to pose for that image when some of the Hammock lab folks were heading across campus (before the coronavirus pandemic precautions).
And now we're delighted to see that Hammock, internationally recognized for his work in alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals--and known as the founder of the field of environmental immunoassays--is the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Innovation, part of the 2020 Chancellor's Innovation Awards.
An honor well-deserved!
The annual campuswide award honors researchers who have made a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who inspire other innovators. It is one of several awards announced June 15 in a program managed by the Office of Research. (See recipients.)
“Research universities like UC Davis play a critical role in advancing innovative solutions for the global community that not only stimulate our economy but create a better quality of life,” said Chancellor Gary S. May in a news release. “The recipients of this year's awards demonstrate the impact of reaching beyond what is expected to deliver game-changing innovations that address some of the world's most critical issues.”
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain. Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years.
UC Davis recently licensed certain patents exclusively to EicOsis that support the underlying technology.
Hammock traces the history of his enzyme research to 1969 to his graduate student days in the John Casida laboratory, UC Berkeley. Hammock was researching insect developmental biology and green insecticides when he and colleague Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside, discovered the target enzyme in mammals that regulates epoxy fatty acids.
“My research led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation and biosynthesis,” Hammock said. “The epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain and inflammation to name a few processes.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded a $15 million HEAL grant (Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative) to EicOsis in 2019 to support human clinical trials of a novel compound that has been found effective for the treatment of pain in preclinical animal studies.
In 2019, Hammock received a $6 million “outstanding investigator” federal grant for his innovative and visionary environmental health research. His pioneering work on inflammation not only extends to alleviating chronic pain, but to targeting inflammation involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
EicOsis won the Sacramento Region Innovation Award in the Medical and Health category in 2019.
More recently, Hammock has turned his attention to using sEH as a means to control the deadly cytokine storm associated with COVID-19.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has directed the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) for nearly four decades, supporting scores of pre- and postdoctoral scholars in interdisciplinary research in 5 different colleges and graduate groups on campus. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Sciences, and the Entomological Society of America. He is the recipient of scores of awards, including the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry; and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. At UC Davis he received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Faculty Research Lectureship.
He has authored or co-authored more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and holds more than 95 patents in agriculture, environmental science and medicinal chemistry.
Hammock is known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology. Earlier in his career, he founded the field of environmental immunoassay, using antibodies and biosensors to monitor food and environmental safety, and human exposure to pesticides. His groundbreaking research in insect physiology, toxicology led to his development of the first recombinant virus for insect control.
As director of the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, he pioneered trans-disciplinary research across campus, engaging faculty in multiple colleges and schools “to transform the way we treat diseases in multiple species.”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor's degree in entomology (with minors in zoology and chemistry) magna cum laude from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1969. He received his doctorate in entomology-toxicology from UC Berkeley in 1973. Hammock served as a public health medical officer with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science, San Antonio, and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
In the Army, Hammock served as a medical officer at Fort Sam, Houston, and what he saw--severely burned people in terrible pain--made a lasting impression on him and steered him toward helping humankind.
The rest, as they say, is history: "his story" that is drawing worldwide attention.