Mansukh C. Wani, PhD, an AACR emeritus member whose research led to the discovery of the anticancer therapeutics Taxol and camptothecin, died April 11, 2020, at the age of 95.
Wani was born February 20, 1925, in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, India. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Bombay. He came to the United States in 1958 as a research fellow and earned his PhD in chemistry from Indiana University Bloomington in 1962. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then accepted a position as a scientist at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI International), where he would spend 44 years of his career, retiring in 2006 as principal scientist emeritus.
While working at the Natural Products Laboratory at RTI, Wani, Monroe E. Wall, PhD, and colleagues discovered Taxol (paclitaxel) and camptothecin, which became widely used to treat ovarian, breast, lung, and colon cancers. Wani authored more than 200 publications and held 36 patents.
In 1994, the AACR awarded Wani and Wall the Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award, which recognized outstanding preclinical research that led to improved patient care. That same year, Wani was featured twice in the AACR journal Cancer Research. He became an active member of the AACR in 2000, and transferred to emeritus membership in 2002.
Among numerous career awards, Wani received the 1994 City of Medicine Award from the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, the National Cancer Institute Award of Recognition, the 2000 Charles F. Kettering Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the Ranbaxy Research Award from the Ranbaxy Science Foundation, the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University, the 2005 North Carolina Award in Science, and the 2008 Paul Ehrlich Magic Bullet Lifetime Achievement Award. Wani was a member of the American Chemical Society Division of Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.