Clinical and Foundational Research

  • Improve the therapeutic use of diagnostics and drugs
  • Increase clinical effectiveness and therapeutic outcomes
    • Reduce adverse events
    • Emphasis on pain, addiction, and stress mechanisms
    • Strengths in Opioid Receptor and Nuclear Receptor Biology

Faculty in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology bring years of experience in drug discovery and development including drug mechanisms, medicinal chemistry, structural biology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacogenetics, drug development, and drug regulation.

Focus on Neuroscience and Pain

The Center has a significant interest in basic translational and clinical research to better understand and improve the treatment of pain. This includes optimizing the use of existing drugs to treat pain, as well as developing and identifying new analgesic drugs and other therapeutic approaches for pain. 

According to the Institute of Medicine’s 2011 report, “Relieving Pain in America,” about 100 million American adults are affected by chronic pain, which is more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. The report recommended better data to define the scope of the pain problem, and it also recommended that health-care providers tailor pain care to each individual patient’s experience.

Work at the center is contributing to health care providers’ ability to create personalized treatment programs for patients. In identifying more effective, tailor treatments for pain, researchers at the center also are trying to prevent some of the problems associated with pain medications.

Fighting the Epidemic of Abuse

In recent years, there has been a growing national conversation surrounding the use and abuse of opioids. The rate of deaths due to drug overdoses has been on a steady rise, surpassing car accidents as the number one cause of injury death, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 2014, the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported deaths resulting from overdoses of prescription opioids had more than tripled since 2001.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 16,000 prescription opioid pain reliever deaths occur every year, equal to the number of homicide deaths. The annual economic cost of opioid abuse is more than $70 billion.

By finding better ways to use existing treatments, and identifying new treatment options, researchers at the center are taking on one of today’s most prominent health-care issues.

Broad Expertise in Nuclear Receptors Drug Discovery

The Center has broad expertise in the pharmacology of nuclear receptors – ligand activated transcription factors that regulate a variety of physiological functions including development, metabolism, immune function, and reproduction. Recently, pain has emerged as a target area as Center faculty have discovered unique pathways that modulate inflammasome function that reduces chronic pain.

The best-known members of this superfamily of receptors are the steroid receptors but also included in this group are receptors for fatty acids, bile acids, oxidized cholesterol, thyroid hormone, and lipophilic vitamins. The group is focused on using chemical biology approaches to characterization of the physiological roles of these receptors as well as developing drugs targeting nuclear receptors for treatment of an array of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. One particular area where we have concentrated over the past several years is identifying the ligands for a group of these receptors known as orphans. The “hormones” that bind to these orphan receptors have yet to be discovered.

Preparing the Next Generation of Professionals

In 2011, the National Institutes of Health identified a need to “recharge a dwindling cadre of experts in clinical pharmacology.” By creating research opportunities, the Center will contribute to future health care needs by allowing students and researchers to expand their knowledge of clinical pharmacology research, implementation, and policy.

Recognizing that “Clinical Pharmacology” is inherently multidisciplinary, the Center for Clinical Pharmacology offers the opportunity for its students, post-graduates, and fellows to train in a collaborative environment that bridges basic biology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry and clinical translation. Students and post-graduates are appointed at either University of Health Sciences & Pharmacy or at Washington University School of Medicine, with full access to the academic resources at both institutions.