Appointment of First Faculty Researchers Announced

Published on 03 June 2017

In August 2015, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis joined forces to find better, safer and more effective ways to use prescription medications to improve health. Researchers from the two institutions collaborated to create the Center for Clinical Pharmacology.

The center’s initial focus is on translational and clinical research to better understand and improve pain treatment. The new center is concentrating on how to best use existing drugs to treat pain, as well as on developing and identifying new analgesic drugs and other therapeutic approaches for pain.

‭With the appointment of the first faculty researchers, the ‭center is taking key steps toward executing its vision. Faculty ‭at the center will hold academic appointments at both the ‭College and WUSM. Three of the five laboratories that make ‭up the center will be led by researchers holding primary ‭appointments at the College and adjunct appointments ‭at WUSM. The other two researchers will hold primary ‭appointments at WUSM and adjunct appointments at ‭the College.

‭The first two researchers, Ream Al-Hasani, Ph.D., and Jordan G. McCall, Ph.D., have been appointed, and they ‭assumed their new roles May 1.

Ream Al-Hasani, Ph.D.

Ream Al-Hasani, Ph.D., holds a primary appointment as ‭assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical ‭and Administrative Sciences at the College and an adjunct ‭appointment as assistant professor in the Department of ‭Anesthesiology at WUSM. Al-Hasani’s interest in neuroscience began during her ‭undergraduate years studying pharmacology at the ‭University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. While at ‭the University of Portsmouth, she secured an internship ‭at GlaxoSmithKline studying neurodegenerative diseases.

Following these formative experiences, Al-Hasani focused ‭her interests on addiction, by pursuing a Medical Research ‭Council-funded Doctor of Philosophy in neuropharmacology ‭at the University of Surrey where she studied the involvement ‭of adenosine A2 receptors in morphine and cocaine addiction.

Al-Hasani completed her postdoctoral training in the ‭Department of Anesthesiology at WUSM. There, she focused ‭on dissecting the role of the opioid circuitry in motivated ‭behaviors. Her work has clarified the role of chronic, mild stress on noradrenergic systems and has uncovered new roles for cue-induced reinstatement of morphine seeking behavior.

‭In 2015, Al-Hasani was awarded the prestigious Pathway ‭to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National ‭Institute on Drug Abuse for her work implementing wireless ‭optogenetics, in vivo neuropeptide detection and neural ‭circuit tracing that led to the identification of two distinct ‭subpopulations of behaviors. The award provided her ‭with an additional two years of mentored phase funding ‭and three years of R01-like funding to use in her own ‭independent laboratory.

‭In her laboratory at the center, Al-Hasani will continue to use ‭multidisciplinary approaches to further our understanding of ‭the negative affective behaviors associated with the withdrawal ‭phase of addiction and the interaction of endogenous opioid ‭systems with commonly prescribed opioid analgesics.

“It’s a new venture and a chance to do what everyone’s been trying to do—bridge basic research with clinical research,” ‭Al-Hasani said. “To have both the clinical and basic aspects ‭in one building adds a lot of strength. It’s invigorating to be ‭a part of the growth of the center and help shape it into what ‭it will become.”

Jordan G. McCall, Ph.D.

Jordan G. McCall, Ph.D., holds a primary appointment as ‭assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at ‭WUSM and an adjunct appointment as assistant professor ‭in the Department of Pharmaceutical and Administrative ‭Sciences at the College. 

McCall earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Bachelor ‭of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Administration from the University of ‭Missouri-Columbia. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy ‭in Neurosciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where ‭he remained as a postdoctoral research associate studying ‭pain neurophysiology. McCall’s research is notable for ‭uncovering the neural circuitry responsible for the anxiety-reducing effects of beta-blockers and for pioneering new ‭wireless technology to manipulate neural circuitry.

As part of McCall’s appointment with the center, he will ‭work in a multidisciplinary research program aimed at ‭understanding the neural mechanisms underlying the ‭emotional distress associated with stress, chronic pain and ‭addiction. The long-term goal of the laboratory will be to take ‭basic, circuit-level neuroscience research and apply these ‭findings to advance therapeutic options for patients. Through ‭collaborative efforts with materials scientists, chemical and ‭electrical engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists ‭and clinicians, the development of new neural interfacing ‭technologies will be a huge step forward in achieving this goal.

“The completely blank slate of the center and the energy ‭to drive the vision of a multidisciplinary center that tackles ‭pharmacology, neuroscience questions and pain research ‭is exciting and a rare opportunity,” McCall said.

Looking Forward

As new faculty researchers are appointed and they begin to ‭establish laboratories, the center will become a hub of activity. ‭The center plans to be fully staffed and operational with at ‭least five new principal investigators who will hold faculty ‭appointments at both institutions and be largely supported ‭through extramural funding within three years.

The center will also create opportunities for student researchers, ‭graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the College ‭and WUSM to gain research experience and explore new ‭career paths.

‭“The center will help promote a research agenda for the ‭College, while also strengthening the center’s commitment ‭to fostering the growth of the next generation of clinical ‭researchers,” said Karen Seibert, Ph.D., co-director of the ‭Center for Clinical Pharmacology and professor in the ‭Department of Anesthesiology, as well as the Department of ‭Pathology and Immunology and Department of Genetics at ‭WUSM. “The center will explore participation in existing training ‭programs through the Division of Biology and Biomedical ‭Sciences and the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences.”

‭As the final pieces fall into place, and the center begins to take ‭on a more robust form as a multidisciplinary research hub, ‭the collaborative efforts of St. Louis College of Pharmacy and ‭Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will be ‭an exceptional illustration of the rewards earned by those ‭who redefine the boundaries of collaboration.

Active ‭recruitment is underway for the remaining researchers. Contact the center to learn more about opportunities.

This story was first published in the spring 2017 issue of Script. Visit stlcop.edu/script to read more and access previous issues.

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