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UEL professor honoured for natural product research

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Professor Olivia Corcoran teaches and leads natural products research at UEL

Olivia Corcoran, professor of bioanalytical chemistry at the University of East London, has become the second woman worldwide to win the Gerald Blunden Award since it was established in 2011.

Professor Corcoran was honoured alongside Professor Jiayu Gao by Natural Product Communications for their review paper on clinical Chinese herbal medicines for respiratory health and lung cancer.

The article, titled ‘From Scutellaria barbata to BZL101 in Cancer Patients: Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Clinical Evidence’, was co-authored with Professor Weiping Yin.

The Gerald Blunden Award for 2020 celebrates the best original article and best review article published in 2019, judged by Editorial Board Members, who are all world-leading researchers. The award recognises the journal’s founding editor Professor Gerald Blunden.

Professor Corcoran teaches and leads natural products research at the University of East London’s School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, and has supervised over 50 postgraduate students in herbal medicine analysis and metabolomics at the University’s Medicines Research Group.

“I’m delighted that my team’s research tackling global health inequalities has been highlighted widely across the globe with this prestigious award and I am humbled to be the second woman recipient, fitting recognition of our resilience and commitment to developing global researchers.

“As the daughter of a nurse and a self-made builder’s merchant, I graduated with a BSc aged 19 as a first-generation student from University College Dublin. This heritage fuels my dedication to encouraging more girls and women to study STEM subjects as I truly believe that diversity in the workplace delivers more fulfilling creative solutions, as well as a life-long global passport.”

Professor Corcoran added, “My heritage reflects my teaching pedagogy and, as a personal philosophy, reinforces to me daily why I teach and research at the University of East London.”

Professor Jiayu Gao’s investigation of the anti-cancer mechanisms of Scutellaria species on human lung cell lines led him to his PhD in 2010 under the supervision of Professor Corcoran.

Now an associate professor at the School of Chemical Engineering and Pharmaceutics, Henan University of Science and Technology, his research interests include the identification of secondary metabolites from natural products used in traditional Chinese medicine, and investigating their pharmacological mechanisms in anticancer, antioxidant and immune regulation.

Professor Gao said, “The time in UEL was one of the most important parts of my life. I met so many wonderful persons and experienced lots of great things, which still inspire my academic career.

“I very much appreciate Olivia and her professionalism for the continued assistance in my doctorial and postdoctoral research. I am proud to carry on the UEL connection here in China, and I’m looking forward to closer cooperation and outstanding achievements in the future.”

Professor Corcoran’s co-authors, Gao and Yin, collaborate on lung and gut health, and are world experts, publishing the encyclopedia on the pharmacology and toxicology of Chinese natural products from Mount Funiu.

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president of the University of East London, said, “This is a fantastic achievement for Professors Corcoran and Gao. The University’s support of postdoctoral researchers has contributed to many successful research careers in pursuit of advances in knowledge and in creating positive impact for people and planet. On behalf of the University, I extend my congratulations on this global recognition.”