For the Record: Congress Honors Bruce Hammock

You may have missed it during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the U.S. House of Representatives paid tribute last January to UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, honoring his celebrated scientific research benefiting humankind--and also recognizing his legendary water balloon battles. 

Sen. John Garamendi (D-CA), who represents California's Third District, entered the tribute in the Congressional Record on  Jan. 12, 2021. The transcript:

"Mr. GARAMENDI. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Bruce Hammock and his exemplary interdisciplinary career. He has been a legendary figure in his field for over four decades and his efforts have made critical advancements in our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, non- addictive solutions to managing chronic pain, and environmental conservation.

"Dr. Hammock's recent research on regulatory enzyme inhibitors and their effect on neuroinflammation has reshaped the way we understand both the cause and cure of the degenerative disease. Alongside his UC Davis team, Dr. Hammock partnered with Baylor University as well as other researchers across the globe to study soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) and its effect on the brains of mice. Dr. Hammock's study found that inhibiting sEH may offer a new pathway to reduce neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration; leading to a breakthrough in recognizing the potential benefits of sEH inhibitors in Alzheimer's treatment.

"Groundbreaking research is nothing new in the world of Dr. Hammock. He is currently a distinguished professor at UC Davis in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and part of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. During his time at the university Hammock has been at the helm of the Superfund Research Program for over three decades--a government-funded program focused on finding solutions to the complex health and environmental issues linked with the nation's hazardous waste sites.

"In addition to his invaluable contributions to science, Dr. Hammock has taken up another admirable charge--to make science and learning fun. Every year he and his lab organize a water balloon fight between faculty and students on the lawn of UC Davis' Briggs Hall where other labs and bystanders join in on the action. This event is a small glimpse into Hammock's unique character--one described by colleagues as enthusiastic, creative, and hard-working. Dr. Hammock's limitless drive and curiosity contribute both to the stellar reputation of UC Davis as an esteemed research institute and California's 3rd Congressional District as a whole. We wish him all the best in his endeavors and look forward to seeing all that he accomplishes in the future."

Bruce Hammock
Hammock, who  holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He is the founding director (1987-present) of the UC Davis NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Superfund Research Program and is a founding member (1990-present) of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Hammock co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH),  a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain.  Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years. 

Hammock is the founder and chief executive officer of the Davis-based pharmaceutical company, EicOsis LLC, formed in 2011 to develop an orally active non-addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain for humans, as well as a version in development for treating painful conditions in companion animals.  A drug candidate known as EC5026 and now in human trials, targets a novel pathway to block the underlying cause of certain types of pain

Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and  Experimental Therapeutics. He is the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry. The Eicosanoid Research Foundation recently honored him for work on oxidized lipids.

COVID-19 Research 
Hammock and his laboratory are now deeply involved in COVID-19 research. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences today posted their work: "Biomarker Suggests Severity of COVD-19 Respiratory Distress."

"In a study funded in part by NIEHS, researchers reported April 1 that certain fatty acids in the blood of COVID-19 patients may predict the severity of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)," the article began. "The fatty acids may also offer a target for treatment. ARDS, characterized by fluid buildup in the lungs, is the second leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

"Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., longtime NIEHS grantee and director of the NIEHS-funded University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, led the study. His team examined six COVID-19 patients over five days and found that those with severe lung involvement showed higher levels of certain fatty acids compared with healthy control subjects. These fatty acids, called leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols, are known to play a role in inflammatory disease and ARDS, but this is the first study of their role in respiratory complications related to COVID-19."

Water Balloon Battles
Insisting that science should be fun, Hammock launched the Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battles nearly 20 years ago on the Briggs Hall lawn (outside his office) as a way to develop camaraderie in his lab; to take a 15-minute break; and to beat the triple-digit heat. The battle, usually waged on a sweltering July afternoon, is basically "15 Minutes of Aim" because that's how long it takes for the 30-some water warriors to toss 2000 water balloons at one another. Stray buckets of water are fair game, too.

Water balloon battle coordinator Christopher Morisseau, who holds the title of "professional researcher" in the Hammock lab, says the annual event is open to "all who want to get wet," which includes students and faculty of other UC Davis labs, spouses,  children, and passersby. One year a police officer joined in. 

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 water battle. And COVID, coupled with the renovation of Briggs Hall and the grounds, may cancel this year's clash as well.  (See images of the 16th annual event, a super-soaker that took place July 12, 2019.)  

The tribute to Bruce Hammock in the Congressional Record is well deserved.  And it's also good to see the Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle mentioned. How many times have you seen a UC Davis water balloon battle entered in the Congressional Record?