Giving Back: University of Rhode Island

Giving Back: University of Rhode Island

For URI doctoral graduate, it’s just natural that he endow a faculty chair

With such strong involvement in natural product research and deep ties to the University of Rhode Island, one could say that it is only natural that Mostafa Omar pledged in excess of $1 million to endow a chair in the University’s College of Pharmacy.


However, it was once very up in the air as to whether he would ever arrive in Kingston at all. A native of Egypt, he was trying to decide in the late 1970s whether to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy at URI. Fortunately, Pharmacy Dean Emeritus Heber Youngken spent two years convincing Omar that coming to URI would be the right move. “My life changed dramatically here,” said Omar, the president of Phytoceuticals, Inc., of Elmwood Park, N.J., and a world-renowned expert in natural product chemistry, herbal extracts and herbal health care. “I was able to pursue many exciting positions because of URI. I owe everything to Heber Youngken.” Ever since being awarded his doctorate in 1982, Omar and his family have been saying thank you. Recently, he pledged to endow a new faculty chair in the College of Pharmacy, and made additional donations to the Pharmacy Dean’s Fund and URI’s International Student Center.


A total of at least $1 million in private donations is needed to establish a faculty chair. Interest earned on the endowment is used to support a faculty member with a national and international reputation in a particular field and support staff. Endowed chairs allow colleges and departments at URI to grow in innovative ways without putting additional burdens on taxpayers.


“Dr. Omar is an innovator in natural products, and he certainly has made his mark in bringing products to market,” said current Pharmacy Dean Louis Luzzi. “He created a team to develop ethical practices in bringing the products to market. He has provided valuable tools relating to dermatology that help patients with sensitive skin.”


“Right from the very beginning when we visited Dr. Omar, he and his family wanted to support URI,” said Lynn Clapham, URI director of major gifts. However, without the initial efforts of Marisa Albini, assistant director of the URI Annual Fund, Omar may not have met with Dean Luzzi and Clapham to discuss the future of the College. When Albini visited Omar in New Jersey, it was clear he wanted to establish stronger ties and help the University. “When I called Dr. Omar to seek an appointment, he said any day was good and that he would clear his calendar,” Albini said. “It sounded as though he would go to great lengths to accommodate me and the University. That one phone call alone conveyed to me Dr. Omar’s deep feelings for the University and the College of Pharmacy.”


Omar’s pledge marks the establishment of the third endowed chair at the College of Pharmacy. In 1996, Ernest Mario made a $1.5 million donation to establish the Ernest Mario Distinguished Chair in Pharmaceutics. In 1998, Thomas Ryan, president and chief executive officer of CVS Corp., and the corporation donated $750,000 out of a total of $1.25 million in donations to establish the Thomas M. Ryan/CVS Chair in Community Pharmacy. Yuzuru Shimizu, URI professor of biomedical sciences, who has established an international reputation of his own for his analysis of marine organisms that may be sources of anti-cancer drugs, has been selected to fill the new Omar-Youngken Distinguished Chair in Natural Product Chemistry. Most recently, Shimizu was awarded a five-year $1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue his more than 30 years of research in this area. This is his second five-year grant from the institute.


The pledge by Omar to fund the chair and the naming of Shimizu to hold that chair unites two top researchers in the field of natural pharmaceutical products. As the founder and president of the six-year-old Phytoceuticals, Omar is internationally known for his “cosmaceutical” and pharmaceutical formulations – primarily based on the modern application of ancient herbal medicine. A pioneer in topical vitamin-C skin care and an expert in phytochemistry, Omar was the first to perfect a stable, topical vitamin-C skin care preparation suitable for cosmetic use. Until early 1997, he supplied stabilized L-ascorbic acid to a Canadian company and has since developed an improved stabilized L-ascorbic acid formulation, which he supplies exclusively to SKINCEUTICALS.


The exclusive formulations adviser to SKINCEUTICALS, Omar is also the president of Phytoceuticals Inc., a company that consults, evaluates, tests and develops products for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. He is the author of eight medical and pharmaceutical publications on topics such as the compounds in botanical extracts for foods, flavors, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. In addition to his work in America, Omar serves as the scientific adviser to the Ministry of Health in Egypt and to October Pharma, a leading Egyptian pharmaceutical company that manufactures a wide range of pharmaceutical products. Omar holds a patent on the pharmacological effects of Aloeferon, the active ingredient in aloe vera, which is used in treating second- and third-degree burns and skin inflammation. He also invented a natural medicine to treat the skin disease, Vitiligo, which is patented and registered as a drug in Egypt. Omar earned his master of pharmaceutical sciences and his bachelor of sciences degrees from Egypt’s Cairo University


Source: URI Today -From the Department of External Relations and Communications