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John Munafo


Enhancement of flavor and the health-promoting properties of foods presents a substantial opportunity for improving the quality of the global diet. In addition, the identification of biologically active natural products in foods and other natural resources, such as plants and fungi, have enormous potential to produce novel health-promoting food ingredients and natural product-based products that can benefit agriculture and animal and human health. Accordingly, our research portfolio is focused on two scientific disciplines: 1) flavor chemistry (sensomics) and 2) natural products chemistry (bioactive natural products). “Healthy Foods with Great Flavor” is the overarching vision of the flavor chemistry leg of the research program. The flavor chemistry leg of the program consists of identifying and quantitating key aroma- and taste-active molecules in selected herbs, fruits, foods, and beverages. This is accomplished through aroma extract dilution analysis (AEDA) and taste dilution analysis (TDA), followed by stable isotope dilution assay (SIDA) for quantitation. Our aim is to apply a fundamental understanding of the sensory-active molecules present in foods to aid in the development of fruits, vegetables, and processed foods with improved flavor, hence increased preference and consumer acceptance.

The natural products chemistry leg of the program focuses on the discovery and characterization of biologically active natural products in foods and other natural sources, such as underutilized plants (i.e., specialty crops, medicinal plants) and fungi (i.e., edible mushrooms). “Novel Natural Products for Health and Agriculture” is the vision of the natural products chemistry leg of the research program. This is accomplished through the activity-guided fractionation of foods, including plants and fungi, followed by structural elucidation and bioactivity studies. The underlying aim of this research is to discover and develop novel natural products that benefit agriculture and animal and human health. The overarching mission of our integrated research program is threefold: 1) develop healthy foods with great flavor; 2) identify new specialty crops for agriculture; and 3) identify novel natural products with potential for prevention and treatment of global health afflictions, such as inflammation, cancer, and emerging infectious diseases.

Current Lab Members

  • Anne Murray, postdoctoral researcher
  • Purni Wickramasinghe, PhD candidate
  • Melissa Dein, PhD student
  • Andrew Moore, MS student

Past Lab Members

  • Trent Kerley, MS student
  • Jordan Lopez, MS student