By Dirk Hoffman
Published August 21, 2023
Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology, delivered the Julius Axelrod Lecture and organized the Axelrod Symposium at the 2023 annual meeting of The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).
The honors were bestowed upon Dubocovich when she was named the recipient of the 2022 Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology.
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 for numerous world-renowned pharmacologists.
Axelrod won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970 for “unraveling the synthesis, release, reuptake and metabolism of catecholamine neurotransmitters.”
Dubocovich received the Axelrod Award in recognition of her seminal work in understanding the physiological role of melatonin and its receptors on neuroendocrine function and circadian rhythms, and for her extraordinary contributions to the training of future pharmacologists, according to ASPET.
Dubocovich first met Axelrod while she was completing her doctoral degree at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
“His work shaped the course of my career and continues to influence me to this day,” Dubocovich says. “Dr. Axelrod provided inspiration and the scientific foundation for my research. He was a role model as a scientist and as a mentor.”
The 2022-2023 Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology Lecture and Symposium, held May 21 in St. Louis, Missouri, was titled “Melatonin Receptors: Molecular Pharmacology and Role in the Modulation of Circadian Disorders.”
“Our Axelrod Symposium was the first to ever address melatonin research and hence honored the pioneer work of Julius Axelrod on melatonin research,” Dubocovich notes.
The title of Dubocovich’s Axelrod Lecture was “MT1 and MT2 Melatonin Receptors as Targets for Modulating Circadian Rhythms.”
Other speakers at the symposium and the title of their lectures were:
“The speakers were from three different countries and all of them have made pioneering discoveries on the effects of melatonin and its receptors,” Dubocovich says. “They have been involved in melatonin research for more than 30 years investigating how melatonin receptors modulate functional responses with potential therapeutic actions in cancer, circadian rhythms, diabetes, depression and many others.”
“The Axelrod Symposium honored the memory and pioneering work by Dr. Axelrod, who made fundamental discoveries on the synthesis, signaling and neuroendocrine actions of melatonin, a molecule that signals darkness,” she adds. “The distinguished panel of speakers addressed the molecular and neuropharmacological mechanisms of melatonin receptor function, and the potential of novel melatonin receptor ligands to treat circadian disorders, depression, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes among other conditions and diseases.”
Dubocovich has connections to the Axelrod Award beyond knowing the award’s namesake and being a recipient herself.
Salomon Langer, MD, her doctoral mentor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, won the Axelrod Award in 2002. Langer’s mentor, the eminent pharmacologist Ullrich Trendelenberg, MD, PhD, won the award in 1991.
Dubocovich’s postdoctoral mentor, Norman Weiner, MD, won the award in 1993.