Harnessing the healing power of medical marijuana

The U of S is pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Laprairie to the position of tenure track assistant professor with a five-year term as GSK-CIHR Research Chair in Drug Discovery and Development.

He will also be teaching within the new Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.

Laprairie’s research focuses on cannabinoids and how they work by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors (e.g. CB1R) which exist throughout the brain and body. Cannabinoids are chemical substances found naturally in marijuana (e.g. THC and cannabidiol) but also in the human body’s endocannabinoid system where they play an essential role in regulating functions such as appetite, sleep, movement and emotions.

By studying the wide range of cannabinoids found in marijuana, Laprairie’s lab aims to develop new synthetic cannabinoid compounds which may be useful for the treatment of addiction, pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. His research utilizes molecular biology, cell culture and animal models to study the pharmacology of cannabinoids.

“This research is critically important to the health of Canadians because medical marijuana use is increasingly common. We want to gain more insight into the use of marijuana as a medicine for a wide range of diseases,” said Laprairie.

The Research Chair was made possible through the support of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Pathfinders Fund for Leaders in Canadian Health Science Research, in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The fund aims to help establish Canada as a world leader in research and development by providing opportunities for attracting and retaining top Canadian researchers and scientists to conduct important discovery work that promises to meet the health-care needs of Canadians.

“Over the past 15 years alone, GSK has helped establish 23 Research Chairs in the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy at Canadian universities, including in respiratory health, virology, HIV, oncology, and the management of chronic disease,” said Amyn Sayani, director of research and development alliances for GSK. “Our partnership with CIHR allows Canadian academic institutions to independently identify and select promising new science from investigators in Canada in a number of therapy areas where Canada is recognized for its leadership.”

A Saskatoon native, Robert Laprairie holds a BSc Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan in addition to a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Neuroscience/Pharmacology and a PhD in Pharmacology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He was a postdoctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute, Department of Molecular Therapeutics, in Florida prior to joining the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the U of S. Laprairie is a member of the Drug Discovery and Development Research Group and the Cannabinoid Research Initiative of Saskatchewan (CRIS). He is a member of the Canadian Society for Pharmacology and Therapeutics (CSPT), the Canadian Consortium for the Investigators of Cannabinoids (CCIC), the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), and the International Cannabinoids Research Society (ICRS). He has written numerous publications and has won several awards and scholarships over the years, including the prestigious CIHR Postdoctoral award where he was ranked first in Canada.

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