Joseph O'Brien

Joseph O'Brien, Ph.D. student, Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry

Develops new pain therapies

• Hometown: Chaska, MN
• Faculty mentor/advisor: David Roman, Associate Professor, Pharmacy
• What is your degree program and expected graduation date? PhD, Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry, 2020
• Please describe your research: My research focuses on the discovery and development of small molecule interventions, which have the potential to become drugs. Using a high throughput screening paradigm, I hope to identify small molecules that inhibit the adenylyl cyclase and calmodulin protein interaction, thus leading to the discovery of novel therapeutics for the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Chronic pain is a major concern in public health, one that not only costs lives but is projected to have a financial burden of $600 billion in the next year. Unfortunately, drugs currently used for chronic pain, such as NSAIDS, opioids, and antidepressants, do not typically provide sufficient relief to restore full quality of life, and in many instances, themselves limit patients. Therefore, the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of chronic inflammatory pain.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? My research started immediately after coming to Iowa. My work was published during my first year at the University of Iowa.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? The research that I do draws parallels with each and every course I have taken at the University of Iowa, and it continues to drive my interest in new and exciting work that is happening all over the University of Iowa. With ample opportunities to share my work and plenty of exceptional seminars from local and visiting researchers, my scientific network has grown substantially since coming to the University of Iowa.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After finishing my doctorate, I hope to continue down the path of drug discovery. With experience in both academia and Industry I am certain I will find a place for me to grow further as a scientist. I have always hoped to be responsible for the discovery and development of a new drug that has an impact as a therapeutic.

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