The Power List 2021 – R&D Trailblazers
Scientific Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Career highlight: The discovery that peripherally restricted CB1 receptor antagonists are effective in improving visceral obesity and its metabolic complications, including fatty liver disease, diabetes, and diabetic nephropathy. Without the neuropsychiatric liability that led to rimonabant being withdrawn, these compounds are resurrecting the therapeutic promise of CB1 blockade.
Unexpected career turn: In 1992 I left the NIH to join the Medical College of Virginia as Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. That is where I met Raphael Mechoulam, shortly after he had published his landmark paper on anandamide. He persuaded me to explore the cardiovascular effects of anandamide, which hooked me on endocannabinoid research for the rest of my career.
Advice to my younger self: Be willing to take more risks in exploring new research areas and methodologies.
Nominator comment: “His research track record is extensive and has focused on the biology of endocannabinoids, particularly their role in the regulation of metabolism, cardiovascular functions, and appetitive behavior, including alcohol drinking behavior.”