Ric Scalzo, founder and former CEO of Gaia Herbs made one of the largest and the most important philanthropic gifts in the history of the naturopathic profession. Ric’s donation created a botanical research institute on Sonoran’s campus that explores the cellular mechanism of action of medicinal plants, and isolating and characterizing their primary constituents. The laboratory integrates a Bioassay Level 2 facility, an analytical chemistry lab, and isolation lab.
He and Dr. Mittman met over 30 years ago, not long after Ric founded Gaia Herbs in Harvard, Massachusetts. Sonoran’s formal relationship with Ric began in 2001 with an NIH research grant collaboration that led to the discovery of new understanding of the immune effects of the Echinacea species. In 2007, Dr. Patricia Gaines and Ric launched Sonoran’s summer elective for third year Sonoran students at Gaia’s farm in Brevard, North Carolina. In recent years, Jeffrey Langland, PhD and Sonoran students built upon the NIH research with research that yielded new insights into the plant Echinacea angustifolia. Each of these collaborations have been grounded in a shared love and fascination of the coevolution of plants, people, microbes, and the environment.
Ric’s gift has transformed research at Sonoran. The gift allowed us to renovate a portion of the Academic Building into the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research and establish an interdisciplinary team of research scientists, herbalists, naturopathic doctors, and a pharmacist.