PORT ST. LUCIE – Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies’ Dr. Lawrence Toll and Dr. Akihiko Ozawa have been awarded a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This grant will fund research to study “NPQ/Spexin the Endogenous Ligand for the Galanin Receptor 3.”

The prohormone preproNPQ was discovered by Dr. Toll, using novel computational methods. Peptides derived from this prohormone have been demonstrated to have central nervous system as well as renal and cardiovascular actions and have now been shown to activate the Galanin receptor 3 (GALR3).

Galanin and its receptors have been implicated in many biologically diverse functions including pain, waking and sleeping regulation, appetite, regulation of blood pressure, as well as a number of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Drs. Toll and Ozawa plan to carry out studies to examine the functional interaction between the peptide and receptor, to evaluate the activity of NPQ peptides as potential analgesics, and to identify small molecule agonists that activate GALR3, using the TPIMS chemical libraries developed over the past 25 years.

These experiments will define the actions of a newly identified neuropeptide system and potentially provide another target for development of medications for pain-related disorders.

Dr. Toll, Director of Neuropharmacology and Full Member at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, is a biochemist with expertise in neuropharmacology. Dr. Toll earned his Ph.D. at UCLA in 1978, where he continued at a postdoctoral fellow in Biological Chemistry through 1979 at which time he accepted a second postdoctoral fellowship in Pharmacology and Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore Maryland.

In 1981 Dr. Toll joined SRI International in Menlo Park, CA where he ultimately became the Senior Director of the Neuropharmacology Program. Dr. Toll joined Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in 2011 as a Full Member and Director of Neuropharmacology. In addition to the discovery of NPQ, he is internationally recognized as the co-discoverer of the endogenous neuropeptide, nociceptin. Dr. Toll’s work has been chronicled in over 120 publications.

Dr. Ozawa, a Senior Scientist at TPIMS, received his Ph.D. from Ehime University in Japan. Prior to joining TPIMS in 2012, he performed his postdoctoral studies to understand the regulatory mechanisms of secretory proteins’ activity, especially for neuropeptides and peptide hormones in Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc., the Louisiana State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

His current research interests are to understand how the neuropeptide systems including its cognate receptors are mechanistically regulating pain perception in the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral tissues by utilizing molecular biological and anatomical approaches.

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