American Society of Pharmacognosy student poster award winner

Sherif Elshahawi examines sample


Portland, Ore. - Sherif Elshahawi is the winner of the American Society of Pharmacognosy Student Poster Award for his research entitled "The Secondary Metabolome of Teredinibacter turnerae; an Endosymbiont of Marine Shipworms (Family Teredinidae)."

Elshahawi, a graduate student in Oregon Health & Science University's Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, presented the research poster at 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy in San Diego, California in August 2011. The annual meeting drew over 600 scientists for a scientific program on natural products: small molecules from microorganisms, plants and animals, and selected featured topics.

The winning poster described the isolation and characterization of two small molecules from a shipworm bacterial symbiont, T. turnerae, their pharmacological activities, the genes involved in their formation, and the mechanism by which the molecules are biosynthesized.

"Shipworms are fascinating marine organisms that depend on wood for shelter and nutrition," Elshahawi says. "They contain a group of bacteria that we think provide essential enzymes and small molecules to the shipworm. We investigated the genetic and secondary metabolite profiles of one of these symbionts, T. turnerae, and identified two compounds that were found to possess antibacterial activity. This is the first time that any metabolites have been characterized from shipworm symbionts."

The research is part of the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont: International Cooperative Biodiversity Group. (PMS-ICBG). Dr. Margo Haygood, Elshahawi's mentor and professor with the Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, is the lead investigator on the research project. Research collaborators on this project include Dr. Daniel Distel of Ocean Genome Legacy, Dr. Eric Schmidt at the University of Utah and Dr. Giselle Concepcion at the University of the Philippine.

Elshahawi earned his undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from Cairo University in Egypt and a Master's degree from the department of Pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. at OHSU and studying bioactive small molecules and the genes that biosynthesize them.