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Obituary: Robert Jacobs (1933-2015)

October 17, 2017
Submitted by William Fenical, PhD, Keith Glaser, PhD, Peer Jacobson, PhD, Alejandro Mayer, PhD, and Palmer Taylor, PhD

Robert JacobsProfessor of Pharmacology Emeritus, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Robert Jacobs passed away on August 26, 2015. Bob, as his students would call him, was born on April 2, 1933 in Chicago, IL to Robert S. and Betty Ester Jacobs. Bob initiated his pharmacology career by joining GD Searle in 1957 and circa 1960 became head of the Pharmacology Screening Lab at GD Searle. While at GD Searle, he earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University (1964) and PhD in Pharmacology at Chicago’s Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine in 1971 (dissertation available at Loyola University of Chicago eCommons).

Bob moved to Santa Barbara in 1974, hired as an assistant professor to initiate an undergraduate degree program in pharmacology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), which became “the first campus in the nation to offer a full undergraduate pharmacological sciences curriculum.” In contrast to professional programs in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, which emphasize the therapeutic principles and applications of pharmacology, Bob developed an undergraduate pharmacology program that emphasized pharmacology as a basic science focusing on drug discovery and mechanism of action. An aspect that set this program apart encompassed extensive laboratory preparations demonstrating pharmacological principles using primary tissues and in vivo models. Today, the major includes courses that represent “state of the art” pharmacology for students with research interests in all of health sciences. The program continues as a vigorous undergraduate major, where many of its graduates continued for advanced degrees and hold leadership positions in industry and academia. Other UC campuses and universities have developed courses and majors following Bob’s lead.

Bob’s internationally recognized research centered on the pharmacology and toxicology of marine natural products that blossomed after joining UCSB. He built an internationally recognized center of marine pharmacology by developing extensive collaborations with marine natural product chemistry laboratories and pharmaceutical companies around the globe. Bob retired from UCSB in 2010 at the age of 77. Alejandro Mayer (postdoc 1985-1988), Keith Glaser (graduate student 1985-1987) and Peer Jacobson (graduate student 1987-1990), carried Bob’s enthusiasm and legacy in the pharmacology of marine natural products forward by curating a dedicated website, contributing reviews on marine pharmacology and providing rigorous editorial assistance to the only journal dedicated to the preclinical and clinical pharmacology of marine natural products.

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