Ronald J. Nachman, ESA Fellow (2016)

Dr. Ronald J. Nachman, an ST Supergrade scientist at the Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), College Station, Texas, was elected as Fellow in 2016. He is internationally known for research on insect neuropeptides, their structural/conformational characterization, physiological/behavioral roles, and design of biostable, bioavailable mimetic analogs as neuroendocrinological tools and as leads in development of novel, safe pest management agents.

Born in Maryland in 1954, Nachman moved to Colorado in 1955, and to California in 1963. He attended Revelle College, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), doing undergraduate research on unusual odd-numbered fatty acids in Antarctic organisms at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He received a B.S. in chemistry from UCSD in 1976, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University in 1981, doing neurochemical research. He joined the USDA’s Western Regional Research Center, Albany, California, in 1981, researching natural products of poisonous plants. As visiting scientist in Nobel laureate Roger Guillemin’s Laboratory for Neuroendocrinology at the Salk Institute (1985), he shifted his research focus to insect neuropeptides. At a later post as visiting scientist at the Department of Molecular Biology, Scripps Research Institute (1988–1989), he studied the active conformations of insect neuropeptides. He moved to the USDA laboratory in Texas in 1989.

Nachman identified the structure of sulfakinins, sulfated insect neuropeptides with homology to the mammalian gastrin/cholecystokinin family, shown to inhibit food intake in several insect species. He established the first active conformation of an insect neuropeptide and the conformations of several others, and utilized that knowledge to develop potent, biostable neuropeptide mimetics that a) prevent cotton bollworm pupal entry into diapause (including topically active forms on pupae), thereby inducing them to commit a form of “ecological suicide”; b) reduce desiccation survival in flies; c) block the ability of heliothine sex pheromone to traverse the cuticle; d) selectively, reversibly disrupt Malpighian tubule fluid secretion in flies; e) match the oral potency of several commercial aphicides; and f) elicit fly-away aversive behavior in mosquitoes, which led to the discovery of neuropeptide receptors in the taste neurons of sensilla of leg/mouth parts, opening new targets for discovery of novel deterrents. Nachman published 235 scientific papers (2 in Science, 9 in PNAS) and seven patents, co-edited four books, was section editor (Invertebrate Neuropeptides) of first and second editions of the Handbook for Biologically Active Peptides, was guest editor for 15 special issues of Peptides on “Invertebrate Neuropeptides,” and serves on editorial advisory boards for Peptides and Pesticides. He serves as president of the Invertebrate Neuropeptide Society of the International Neuropeptide Society (INS), and co-organized the annual, international Invertebrate Neuropeptide Conference (INC) from 2000 to present.

Major awards have included the Arthur S. Flemming Award (1993), ARS/USDA Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award (2012), Lodz University of Technology Distinguished Medal (2014), INC Invertebrate Neuropeptide Award (2016), and election to Fellow of the INS (2000) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (2011).

He is married to wife Isidora, and they enjoy international travel, photography, and reading.

(updated November, 2016)