The Power List 2020 – R&D Trailblazers
Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UCI School of Medicine, and Director of the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis, Irvine, California, USA
Starting out in cannabis: When the structure of anandamide was described in 1993 I became intrigued by its similarities and differences with the compounds I was working on – eicosanoids. Anandamide was clearly an unusual molecule, and I wanted to find out how it was formed and destroyed in the brain. That curiosity led to a series of studies in which my lab identified the key pathways through which anandamide is produced and deactivated by neurons, and its role as a signaling molecule in the brain.
Most exciting project: More than 20 years after its discovery, we know that the endogenous cannabinoid system plays highly important and pervasive roles in the brain as well as in the periphery of the body. But we still don’t know how exogenous cannabinoids like THC can influence the activity of this system. My lab is now addressing this important question, with quite a few surprising results!
Proud moment: Any time one of my former student or postdoc trainees does well in their career.
Nominator comment: “The most important cannabis researcher in the world today.”