- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Sparks will discuss "Natural Products – Sources and Inspiration for Insect Control Agents" from 11 to 11:50 a.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Building.
At Dow AgroSciences, Sparks is a research fellow with the Insect Management Group, Discovery Research unit, a position he has held since January 2010.
"Natural products (NPs) have long been used as pesticides and have broadly served as a source of inspiration for a great many commercial synthetic organic fungicides, herbicides and insecticides that are in the market today," Sparks says in his abstract. "In light of the continuing need for new tools to address an ever changing array of fungal, weed and insect pests, NPs continue to be a source of models and templates for the development of new pest control agents. "
"Interestingly, an examination of the literature suggests that NP models exist for many of the pest control agents that were discovered by other means, suggesting that had circumstances been different, these NPs could have served as inspiration for the discovery of a great many more of today's pest control agents. With an emphasis on insecticides, an attempt will be made to answer questions regarding the existence of NP models for existing pesticides, and using the spinosyns as a reference point, what is needed for the discovery of new NPs and NP models for pest control agents."
"Tom Sparks enrolled at UC Riverside to study biological control," recalled Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This interest soon took a more physiological and biochemical turn."
“Tom had broad interests even then, ranging from synthesis of juvenile hormone analogs as green pesticides to resistance management, to his thesis work on the fundamental biochemistry of how butterflies and moths undergo metamorphosis.”
Sparks went on to become a professor at Louisiana State University in an academic career spanning from 1978 to 1989. He completed a sabbatical leave at UC Davis in the summer of 1985.
Sparks won the 2012 International Award for Research in Agrochemicals at the American Chemical Society's 244th meeting, in Philadelphia for "research and exceptional accomplishments in applying new technology from a number of disciplines to the discovery of new pest control agents.
“Tom was instrumental in the discovery and development of a new class of insecticides called spinosids,” Hammock said.
In 2009, Sparks was named the 44th Scientist of the Year by the global research and development magazine, R&D. He won that honor via a vote from readers and editors of R&D. Past recipients have included the inventor of the Internet and the first to successfully sequence the entire human genome.
At the time, R&D senior editor Paul Livingstone said: “Tom Sparks is one of the leading entomologists in agroscience and a pioneer in the wave of new green chemistries that are changing the way we control the insects that are a crucial factor in global agriculture." Sparks' research on “green” insecticides led to spinetoram, a highly effective new insecticide chemistry that eliminates toxic side effects in humans and mammals.
Sparks, now a resident of Greenfield, Ind., grew up in California's Central Valley. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from California State University, Fresno, before enrolling in the graduate program at UC Riverside. While at UC Riverside, Sparks won the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and also received a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship.
Both Hammock and Sparks are fellows of ESA.
Livingston said Hammock played an important role in Sparks' development: “While working in the well-known laboratory of Dr. Bruce Hammock, Tom completed key research on hormones that would guide him into the unexplored regions of entomological science.”
More information on the Oct. 16 seminar is available from events manager Jacki Balderama of the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, at email@example.com
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