As an internationally recognized expert on the role of melatonin, she has also made the training of budding pharmacologists a focus of her career
BUFFALO, NY – The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) announced today that Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, is the recipient of the award is the 2022 Julius Axelrod Prize in Pharmacology.
Dubocovich receives the award in recognition of her groundbreaking work in understanding the physiological role of melatonin and its receptors in neuroendocrine function and circadian rhythms, as well as for her exceptional contributions to the education of future pharmacologists, said ASPET.
The Axelrod Award was established in 1991 to honor the eminent American pharmacologist who shaped the fields of neuroscience, drug metabolism and biochemistry and who served as a mentor to numerous world-renowned pharmacologists.
A worthy honor for a pioneering researcher
“It is quite fitting that Dr. Dubocovich received this honor because her groundbreaking research in melatonin neuropharmacology builds on previous work by Julius Axelrod, ”said Allison Brashear, MD, UB Vice President of Health Sciences and Dean of Jacobs School. “I am delighted that this award also recognizes your exceptional commitment as a mentor to the next generation of pharmacologists.”
Dubocovich is an international scientist on the brain hormone melatonin and its receptors. Her groundbreaking work revealed the effects of melatonin on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders, depression, reproduction, body weight and fatigue, an energy-saving state that is similar to short-term hibernation.
“It is a special privilege to receive an award that honors the memory of such a distinguished Nobel Prize winner, pharmacologist, neuroscientist and mentor whose scientific contributions continue to influence the discovery of drugs for the treatment of psychiatric disorders,” she says.
Dubocovich first met Axelrod during her PhD at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
He attended a few years after receiving a share of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with eminent pharmacologists Sir Bernard Katz, PhD, and Ulf von Euler, PhD, for his discoveries on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters.
“Our team, which was working on modulating catecholamine release by presynaptic receptors at the time, met for a conversation with Dr. Axelrod, where we all had the opportunity to discuss our experiments and ask questions, ”says Dubocovich. “This meeting shaped my professional career and influences me to this day.”
Dubocovich is very proud of how her own work has contributed to the field of melatonin receptor pharmacology and physiology initiated by Axelrod.
“Dr. Axelrod’s openness and his ability to define concise hypotheses were the basis on which he developed new experimental methods and discoveries,” she says Will pass on Dr. Axelrod’s legacy to future scientists.
“He emphasized the paramount importance of observing biological effects over any complex analysis,” adds Dubocovich. “He always said, ‘If the effect is strong, you don’t need sophisticated analysis to see that the experiment was successful to move the project forward.'”
Pioneered the pharmacology of melatonin
Building on the early work of Axelrod, Dubocovich is credited with discovering and revolutionizing the field of functional melatonin receptors and pioneering the pharmacology of melatonin receptor agonists and antagonists.
Her seminal work in the journal Nature in 1983 described the presynaptic regulation of dopamine release in the retina and began her career-defining quest to understand the role of melatonin in physiological function and receptor pharmacology.
Dubocovich discovered the first melatonin receptor antagonist, luzindol, and successfully demonstrated its antidepressant effects by blocking melatonin receptor types in mouse models.
She pushed the frontiers of neuropharmacology with studies of melatonin receptor-mediated effects on brain neurogenesis and drug design. Most recently, she broke new ground when she discovered that environmental factors influence the activity of melatonin receptors.
Build diverse communities of trainees
Dubocovich is Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Jacobs School and a passionate educator who has built culturally and intellectually diverse and academically inclusive communities of apprentices and introduced inaugural programs for apprentice education at all levels.
After establishing the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) program at Northwestern University, she started the CLIMB programs at UB, which are now professional development and mentoring programs for undergraduate, graduate and graduate students, postdocs and young professionals.
An R25 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has continuously funded their initiative to maximize student development and has increased the number of underrepresented students in biomedical and behavioral research since 2012.
As a committed mentor for academic interns, she has trained and supervised 48 doctoral and postdoctoral students. Her reputation as an outstanding research advisor is reflected in the scholarships her trainees have received from the NIH, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and others.
Your apprentices currently hold academic positions and industrial jobs as pharmacologists, neuroscientists and toxicologists. Local and national mentoring awards recognized both her teaching and mentoring.
Dubocovich has been an ASPET member since 1983 and was made a Fellow of the Society in 2020. In 2013 she was made a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Dubocovich says she has had many opportunities over the years to meet Axelrod at scientific conferences, listen to his lectures, and discuss their shared interests in the pharmacology of melatonin receptors.
“It’s really an honor to have met him and to do whatever we can to carry on his legacy,” she says.
The award will be officially awarded at the ASPET Business Meeting and the award ceremony during the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2022 on April 2nd in Philadelphia.
The award includes invitations to give the Julius Axelrod Lecture and to organize the Axelrod Symposium in 2023, as well as a less formal presentation at the annual 2022 dinner meeting of the Catecholamine Society, an international organization made up of scholars working on all aspects of catecholamine research are interested in keeping. which was co-founded in 1969 by Axelrod.