Philadelphian wins national organic chemistry award

Madeleine Joullie of Philadelphia will be honored August 20 by the world's largest scientific society for designing and constructing compounds useful in fields ranging from medicine to forensics. She will receive the 2002 Arthur C. Cope Senior Scholar Award at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Boston.

Joullie, a synthetic organic chemist, joined the University of Pennsylvania's faculty as its first female instructor in 1953. Nearly 50 years later, now one of its most accomplished professors, she describes herself a pragmatic chemist, one who combines scientific approaches to understand how drugs work and how to improve them.

"Joullie is particularly distinguished for her pioneering, ongoing research with the didemnins," wrote a colleague who nominated her for the award. Didemnins are compounds isolated from tunicates, marine animals such as sea squirts, and which show anticancer properties. Several examples of her work in the field, "beautifully executed with surgical precision," have been described in textbooks, he added.

Such research is particularly challenging because of the complexity of the didemnins' structures. To turn a natural product into a candidate for cancer treatment, one must first understand how the various piece of the structure relate to its action. To that end, Joullie has not only created laboratory versions of didemnins as found in tunicates but also modified their structures to enhance their activity against tumors.

Her interests range widely. Among her other achievements is a simple, inexpensive compound that can make previously invisible fingerprints glow fluorescent. She and her research team have also attached fluorescent "tags" to compounds to track their path within cells and simple organisms.

Joullie, who was born in France, said she has been intrigued by science and particularly chemistry for as long as she can remember. "How did I get into this? I don't really know. There is n

Contact: Allison Byrum
American Chemical Society

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