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Nobel Prize Winner Speaks at the College

Published on 22 October 2019

Brian Kobilka, M.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University and winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry, recently visited St. Louis College of Pharmacy to present his current research. He was invited by the Center for Clinical Pharmacology as part of its 2019-2020 speaker series.

Kobilka won the Nobel Prize for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) which constitute a large protein family of receptors that detect molecules outside the cell and activate internal signaling pathways. These receptors have great promise for the treatment of many common diseases, as they interact with the proteins that are responsible for almost all of the body’s functions, including the heart and the brain.   

“Our speaker really needed no introduction because his work on GPCRs is so well known in biomedical sciences,” stated Susruta Majumdar, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry at St. Louis College of Pharmacy and associate professor of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine. “GCPRs are one of the most important targets in medicinal chemistry, and Dr. Kobilka’s work has been crucial in our understanding of them.”

During his presentation, Kobilka brought attendees up to date on his current research efforts. Given the wide range of bodily functions that GPCRs interact with, isolating individual functions and mechanisms is a lengthy and difficult process. Kobilka explained how his lab has developed a number of methodologies and models to learn as much as possible about GCPRs so that they can be used to develop new precision therapies.

In particular, Kobilka’s lab is making use of cutting-edge computational and structural biology models. In a graphic, Kobilka demonstrated how the traditional methods of drug discovery via individual tests is a slow and expensive process. However, he noted that using structure-based design allows for a larger variety of compounds to be tested much more efficiently and at a lower cost. Kobilka was optimistic that this improved method would help his lab, and others, get new therapeutics through the testing and development process more quickly and easily.

Over last couple of years, Kobilka has collaborated with Majumdar on his research related to kratom and its use as a potential alternative to opioids. The two began working together before Majumdar came to the center in 2018, and they continue to collaborate to develop new and less addictive medications for pain relief. 

“Dr. Kobilka spent his medical residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and was happy to come back to St. Louis,” stated Majumdar. “He is a collaborator of mine, and I was humbled and honored to welcome him to the College. His work is highly influential in the field of drug discovery, and it was exciting to learn about his current projects.”

To learn more about research at the College, visit stlcop.edu/research. To learn more about research happening at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, visit clinicalpharmstl.org.  

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