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Friday Evening Lecture Series

David Julius

Forbes Lectures
July 16 & 17, 2009
Lillie Auditorium, 8:00 PM

David Julius, University of California, San Francisco

07/16/09 - “The Molecular Biology of Thermosensation and Pain”

Introduced by Donald S. Faber

Abstract: Primary afferent sensory neurons are remarkable in their ability to detect a range of physical and chemical stimuli, including heat, cold, pressure, and environmental or endogenous irritants. Pharmacological and genetic studies have identified ion channels that detect such stimuli under normal and/or pathophysiological conditions. Excitatory TRP channels have received special attention in this regard, particularly in the context of thermosensation and peripheral mechanisms underlying neurogenic inflammation and pain hypersensitivity. Structural, biochemical, and cellular mechanisms pertaining to these and other somatosensory phenomena will be discussed.

David Julius is a Professor and Chair in the Department of Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Julius received his undergraduate degree from MIT, gaining his first research experience in the laboratory of Alexander Rich studying mechanisms of tRNA aminoacylation. He then moved to the University of California, Berkeley for graduate studies, where he worked with Jeremy Thorner and Randy Schekman to elucidate mechanisms of peptide hormone processing and secretion in Saccharomyces yeast, culminating in the first identification of a pro-hormone convertase, KEX2. For postdoctoral studies, Dr. Julius joined Richard Axel’s group at Columbia University, where his focus turned to neuropharmacology and receptor function. During this time, Dr. Julius developed powerful expression cloning methods that enabled him to identify genes encoding members of the serotonin receptor family. Dr. Julius is a member of the Board of Directors of The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the PEW Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Julius is an editorial board member for PNAS and Neuron and is currently Editor of the Annual Review of Physiology. Dr. Julius is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received numerous honors and awards, including, most recently, the Julius Axelrod Prize (with Richard Huganir) from the Society for Neuroscience, the Unilever Science Prize, and the W. Alden Spencer Award (with Charles Zuker) from Columbia University.

Donald S. Faber will introduce Dr. Julius. Dr. Faber received his S.B. in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University at Buffalo. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Buffalo and at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany. Dr. Faber was Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati from 1972 to 1974. He then moved back to the University at Buffalo, where he was a member of the faculty of the School of Medicine until 1992, when he became the Chair of Neurobiology and Anatomy at MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine. In 1999 he joined the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he is the Florence and Irving Rubinstein Professor and Chair of Neuroscience and Director of the Rose F. Kennedy Center. Dr. Faber was a Grass Fellow at the MBL in 1969 and was an Instructor in the Neurobiology Course from 1995 to 2003, and he served as Co-Director of the course from 2000-2003. He is a member of MBL's Science Council and a Trustee of The Grass Foundation. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999. His research program is focused on the regulation of synaptic transmission and the relations between functional properties of neurons and the control of sensorimotor behavior.

07/17/09 - “From Peppers to Peppermints: Understanding Pain Through the Power of Folk Medicine and Natural Products”
Introduced by Darcy B. Kelley

Abstract: Medicinal plant extracts serve as the foundation of modern day pharmacology and drug design. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the development of pain medications, the majority of which are inspired by morphine and aspirin, the active ingredients from opium poppy and willow bark, respectively. Aside from their tremendous clinical utility, these analgesic agents have been key to uncovering biochemical and cellular mechanisms that regulate pain sensitivity under normal and pathological conditions.

While some natural plant products (such as opiates) suppress pain, others produce it. This is perhaps best exemplified by capsaicin, the pungent ingredient from chili peppers that elicits a sensation of burning pain. Just as morphine and aspirin have served as chemical keys to unlock cellular mechanisms of pain suppression, capsaicin and other pungent natural products have helped to define molecules and pathways that initiate pain. These discoveries will be discussed as they relate to pain sensation when it is useful (protective) or debilitating (chronic).

Darcy B. Kelley will introduce Dr. Julius. Dr. Kelley is Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. She received her A.B. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University where she was Assistant Professor before joining the faculty of Princeton University. In 1982, she moved to Columbia University where she co-founded the interdepartmental graduate program in Neurobiology and Behavior. Dr. Kelley directed the MBL’s Neural Systems and Behavior from 1985 to 1989. She was also an MBL Trustee in the Classes of 1999, 2004, and 2007. Dr. Kelley has been a scientific advisor to the Sloan and Fairchild Foundations and is currently a Trustee of the Wenner Gren and the Grass Foundations and Editor of Developmental Neurobiology. In 2002, Dr. Kelley was named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. Among her awards are the Jacob Javits Award for Neuroscience Research from the National Institutes of Health (twice) and the Forbes and Kravitz Lectureships at the MBL. Dr. Kelley has a long-standing interest in the public perception of science through portrayal in plays, movies and television. She serves as scientific consultant for the Ensemble Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project which commissions, develops, and presents new works that delve into how we view and are affected by the scientific world.

About the Forbes Lectures:
Since 1959, the special two-part Forbes Lecture has been supported by The Grass Foundation, a private foundation that supports research and education in neuroscience. The lectures are given in honor of pioneering neurobiologist Alexander Forbes. Traditionally, the Forbes lecturer also spends several weeks at the MBL, working alongside the Grass Fellowship Program.