Remarks by Nancy K. Mello, Ph.D., Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Center,
McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School
It is a great pleasure for me to introduce Steve Negus who has won the 12th Joseph Cochin Young Investigator award this year. This award was set up to honor the memory of Joe Cochin, who was Professor of Pharmacology at Boston University and a pioneer in research on opioid pharmacology. This award is designed to recognize an outstanding young investigator who has made significant contributions to research on substance abuse. Steve Negus is indeed an exceptional young scientist and I’d like to tell you something about his scientific background and achievements.
Steve received his Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina in 1990. He trained with Linda Dykstra, our President, who has had a profound influence on his career (3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 43). Steve’s Ph.D. dissertation was focused on buprenorphine and he demonstrated that buprenorphine had kappa opioid antagonist properties in a series of behavioral studies (1, 2, 45, 46). It is an interesting coincidence that buprenorphine is featured prominently in the CPDD awards this year. John Lewis will be honored for his discovery of buprenorphine later this morning.
After his Ph.D. in Neurobiology, Steve took a post-doctoral fellowship with George Koob at the Scripps Research Institute and continued his explorations of opioid pharmacology and the role of mu kappa and delta-selective opioids in drug dependence and reinforcement. During this time he also studied with Matthew Weinger in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of California. This training was an important stimulus for Steve’s continuing interest in the analgesic effects of opioids and the neurobiology of pain (9, 11, 12, 13).
Steve’s first faculty appointment was as a Research Investigator in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan, working with Jim Woods and Gail Winger. This was a very productive period during which Steve developed and refined a hyperalgesia model for studies of analgesia in rhesus monkeys and continued studies of opioid effects on thermal nociception (14, 16, 17, 18). At this time, he also began behavioral studies of the effects of the first systemically active delta opioid agonist, BW373U86 (19). His interest in the analgesic, reinforcing and discriminative stimulus effects of delta opioids is a major theme in his research today (21, 22, 31, 42, 47).
Five and a half years ago I was fortunate to persuade Steve to join me at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center at McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. Our mutual interest in the pharmacology of buprenorphine was one basis for our initial discussions and early collaborations. Steve is now an Associate Professor at the Harvard Medical School and Director of the Neurobiology Program in the Behavioral Science Laboratory at our research center. In this role, he has continued his research on the neurobiology of pain (23, 27, 28, 29, 32, 35, 38) and has developed an integrated behavioral program to evaluate the effectiveness of new medications for drug abuse treatment in primate models (30, 33, 34, 41, 48). Steve has also become interested in the pharmacological interactions between cocaine and opioids and how these contribute to the reinforcing and discriminative stimulus effects of polydrug abuse in a rhesus monkey speedball model (24, 36, 37, 39, 40). Steve has been outstandingly productive in all of these areas and in the 8 years since receipt of his Ph.D., he has written and co-authored 48 scientific reports and comprehensive reviews.
Steve is thoughtful, scholarly and creative and has an special talent for analyzing research questions from a multidisciplinary perspective that combines pharmacology, behavioral science, and neurobiology. Beyond Steve’s exceptional scientific achievements, he is a wonderful mentor for young scientists. Many of his post-doctoral students are here today and have benefited from his guidance, his warm collegiality and unfailing concern for their career development.
When I nominated Steve for this award, I wrote that he is a dedicated scientist who combines scientific excellence, scholarship, creativity and critical analytic abilities. There is every reason to expect that Steve will continue to make important contributions to the neurobiology of substance abuse. Moreover, his generous mentoring of younger scientists, his modesty and his integrity are in the best tradition of Joe Cochin’s legacy.
The inscription on the award reads: To S. Stevens Negus Ph.D., For Outstanding Research in Neurobiology and the Behavioral Pharmacology of Opioids and Stimulants.