Li Set to Receive Inaugural ASPET Early Career Award

Jun-Xu Li.

Jun-Xu Li, MD, PhD

Published March 7, 2019

Research Focused on Non-Addictive Painkillers

“The discovery and development of non-addictive pain killers is critically important and an urgent need for millions of pain patients.”
Associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology

The award recognizes outstanding behavioral pharmacology research by early-career investigators who have received their doctorate in the past 15 years.

According to ASPET, Li is being honored “for his strong, consistent, innovative approaches to identifying therapeutics to treat pain which are devoid of abuse liability.” His research focuses on discovering non-addictive painkillers and treatments for drug addiction.

“As chronic pain is a huge medical and economic challenge to society, and opioid overdoses and deaths have reached epidemic levels nationwide, the discovery and development of non-addictive pain killers is critically important and an urgent need for millions of pain patients,” Li says.

Studying Receptors to Treat Drug Addiction

He and his colleagues work with chemists to develop non-addictive painkillers with new mechanisms of action. They are studying specific receptors in the body’s nervous system that are promising drug targets — such as imidazoline I2 receptors — that may produce analgesic effects without the side effects of opioids.

Li is also studying trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), a relatively new receptor that shows promise as a target for treating drug addiction.

Numerous Honors as Young Investigator

Li has been a UB faculty member since 2010. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He earned his medical degree from Binzhou Medical University and his doctoral degree in pharmacology from Peking University.

Other honors he has received are:

  • Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award from The College on Problems of Drug Dependence
  • UB Exceptional Scholar: Young Investigator Award
  • Maharaj Ticku Memorial Travel Fellowship for New Investigators from the University of Texas Health Science Center

Li will receive the award at the ASPET Division for Behavioral Pharmacology’s annual meeting in April at Experimental Biology 2019 in Orlando, Florida.