ACS Honors OHSU Chemical Biology Program Director

02/23/11  Portland, Ore.

Dr. Thomas Scanlan, developing endocrine disorder drugs, earns Cope Scholar Award.

The director of Oregon Health & Science University's Program in Chemical Biology has been honored with a prestigious American Chemical Society award.

Thomas Scanlan, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology in the OHSU School of Medicine, is one of 10 recipients of the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, which recognizes and encourages excellence in organic chemistry.

"It's a big, nationally recognized award, and it's great recognition from your peers," Scanlan said. "It means a lot and validates what I do."

The Cope Scholar Award consists of $5,000, a certificate, and a $40,000 unrestricted research grant to be assigned by the recipient, according to the ACS. The recipient also is asked to deliver an awards address at an Arthur C. Cope Symposium. The recipient may also be invited to make a presentation at an ACS regional meeting during the year after the Cope Award and Cope Scholar Award Symposium.

Scanlan, who studies chemical and biological aspects of steroid and thyroid hormone action, has been director of the OHSU Department of Physiology and Pharmacology's Program in Chemical Biology since the program was launched in 2006. Occupying state-of-the-art laboratory space on the sixth floor of OHSU's Biomedical Research Building, the program develops small molecules that interact with biological target proteins.

"In its practical use, chemical biology produces new therapeutics," Scanlan said. "It also produces probes and tools for studying new biological pathways discovered by basic scientists."

Professor David Dawson, Ph.D., chairman of the OHSU Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, called Scanlan a leader among a new generation of organic chemists using the power of designed molecules to sort out major questions surrounding the actions of hormones, such as thyroxine and estrogen. The discoveries are the first, essential step toward new therapies for endocrine disorders.

"We were truly fortunate to attract Tom to be the director and cornerstone of our new Program in Chemical Biology, and his decision to join us here in Portland is a significant endorsement of our vision for a program that truly integrates chemistry and biomedical research," Dawson said. "Under Tom's leadership, we are building a unit where chemists and biologists work side by side on research that will positively impact human health."

Two compounds Scanlan has developed may do just that.

One is a selective thyromimetic licensed to QuatRx Pharmaceuticals Co. of Ann Arbor, Mich., about to be tested in a Phase II clinical trial as a potential cholesterol-lowering drug. The other is a novel thyroid hormone metabolite that is in preclinical development through Seattle-based biotechnology firm Ikaria Inc. as a possible treatment for human injuries and diseases for which reducing metabolic demand may prove beneficial.

"Having a compound designed and created in your university lab make it all the way to clinical development is the highest level we can reach with the work we do," Scanlan said.

The Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards were established in 1984 by the ACS Board of Directors, on recommendation of the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, under the terms of the will of Arthur C. Cope. The Cope Scholar Awards are supported by income from the Arthur C. Cope Fund, which is administered by the ACS.