Dr. Vennerstrom receives prestigious ACS Award

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | October 25, 2018

Image with caption: Jonathan Vennerstrom, Ph.D.

Jonathan Vennerstrom, Ph.D.

A handful of Nobel Prize winners. Inventors of Lyrica and LASIK. The most cited chemist of the first decade of the 2000s. And now, joining that list, Jonathan Vennerstrom, Ph.D.

The American Chemical Society recently placed one of UNMC's top scientists in very good company.

Dr. Vennerstrom, professor of pharmaceutical science in the College of Pharmacy, has been named the 2019 honoree of the ACS Award for Creative Invention. The award, which goes back to 1968, is "to recognize a single inventor for the successful application of research in chemistry and/or chemical engineering that contributes to the material prosperity and happiness of people."

Previous winners are a who's who, as noted above.

"We are grateful that the American Chemical Society is confirming what we at UNMC have known for a while now -- that Jonathan Vennerstrom is one of our nation's top scientists," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. "His work in drug discovery is the embodiment of our mission to create a healthier future for people here in Nebraska and around the world."

Dr. Vennerstrom is honored for his work in inventing drugs with the potential to save lives in the fight against malaria.

He and his UNMC team collaborated with Australia's Monash University and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute to discover the new antimalarial drug Synriam, and the antimalarial drug candidate, OZ439, currently in clinical trials. Dr. Vennerstrom and company have worked with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a Swiss nonprofit backed heavily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

If successful, OZ439 would be a single-dose antimalarial drug, a long-sought breakthrough against an illness that the World Health Organization estimates affected 216 million worldwide in 2016.

The OZ439 discovery was named one of "30 high-impact innovations to save lives" by the inaugural report of the Innovation Countdown 2030 initiative.

Dr. Vennerstrom spent a good portion of his childhood in Africa, and once saw several schoolmates stricken with malaria, "flat on their backs."

His friends recovered, but millions of children before and since have not been so lucky.

Years later, he would fall in love with chemistry, and first began his fight against the disease as a postdoc at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

At UNMC, the path to get his research to this point has been decades long. And the final finish line is still on the horizon.

"You have so many people involved along the way, no one person stays with it all the way through," he once said of drug discovery research.

"It's passed on," Dr. Vennerstrom said, "like a baton."

He is grateful he and his team could come through when it counted, in this crucial relay race.

G.M. Avery
November 13, 2018 at 12:27 PM

Jon, Well done. SJ, and we in Lincoln, are proud of you.

Sudha Vippagunta
November 09, 2018 at 9:12 PM

My hearty Congratulations Dr. Vennerstrom! I am so proud of you. Sudha

Larry Schaaf
November 09, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Congratulations Jon! Well deserved honor and recognition! Regards to you and the family. Larry

Ashley Baer
October 31, 2018 at 1:36 PM


Clarence Ueda
October 31, 2018 at 11:18 AM

Congratulations, Jon. What a well deserved honor and recognition. Best wishes for continued success.

Jianbo Wu
October 31, 2018 at 8:02 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom! So proud of being a member of the group!

October 29, 2018 at 3:19 PM

Dr. Vennerstrom has been a frequent speaker for the Student Alliance for Global Health (SAGH). He always presents the information in a easily-understood manner available to all of the audience members. A very deserving honor!

Vivek J Bulbule
October 28, 2018 at 10:14 PM

Congratulations sir, your work in the field of malaria will be remembered for the years to come.

Peter Ihnat
October 28, 2018 at 10:07 PM

Congratulations Dr. Vennerstrom! All the best!

Jasmine Davda
October 28, 2018 at 8:34 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom! This is such great news!

Harold Isenberger
October 28, 2018 at 5:31 PM

Congratulations, Jon.

Coleen Black
October 27, 2018 at 8:07 AM

WOW -- Dr. Jon!! This only confirms how much we have respected you for your passion through the years in helping this world out! What a fantastic HONOR!!

Ravi Bhamidipati
October 26, 2018 at 11:30 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!

Michelle Yates
October 26, 2018 at 8:33 AM

Yay Dr. V!!!! You deserve it!

Andy Zhong
October 25, 2018 at 3:54 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!!

Yogesh Sonawane
October 25, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom for a well-deserved award!

Tom O'Connor
October 25, 2018 at 2:05 PM

Congrats, Jonathan. Know you don't like to blow your own horn, but kudos to you on this great recognition! You make us proud.

Molly Miller
October 25, 2018 at 1:17 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!!

Bill Tracewell
October 25, 2018 at 12:08 PM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!

October 25, 2018 at 11:27 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!

Ravi Dyavar
October 25, 2018 at 9:42 AM

Hearty Congratulations to Dr. Vennerstrom for a well deserved award and for great work.

Guangshun Wang
October 25, 2018 at 9:42 AM

Congrats, Jon!

Jered Garrison
October 25, 2018 at 9:41 AM

Congratulations Jonathan!! Well deserved!

Harold M Maurer
October 25, 2018 at 8:49 AM

Congratulations, Jonathan. You’ve done great research to benefit humanity. Hal Maurer

John S Davis
October 25, 2018 at 8:49 AM

Jonathan, Congratulations! You are a great role model for all researchers at UNMC and elsewhere.

Kelly Johnson
October 25, 2018 at 7:40 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Vennerstrom!

Shantaram Joshi
October 25, 2018 at 7:29 AM


Patrick Wortmann
October 25, 2018 at 7:24 AM

Congratulations Dr. Vennerstrom. Much deserved. We, in Environmental Health and Safety, are very proud to support your work.

Frank Rutar
October 25, 2018 at 7:14 AM

What an incredible, & well deserved honor, to a great guy!! Congratulations!!

Matt Kelso
October 25, 2018 at 7:13 AM

Congratulations Jonathan!