Faculty & Staff Featured News Research Industry Awards

Che Honored with Prestigious Early Career Award for Pioneering Opioid Receptor Research

Tao Che, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the prestigious Early Career Award from the Division for Molecular Pharmacology, a distinction granted by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). This award celebrates the exceptional scholarly contributions of junior investigators early in their independent careers, specifically acknowledging Che’s invaluable research in opioid receptor biology and development of innovative tools that advance the field. 

“Tao Che is a rising star in the field of opioid receptor biology. He is richly deserving of this highly prestigious and competitive award,” says Director of the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, Amynah Pradhan, PhD. 

Che earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wuhan University in China, before completing his Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Following his doctoral studies, he pursued his postdoctoral research in Dr. Bryan Roth’s laboratory at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. There, his work centered on opioid drugs and their receptors. Notably, he achieved a significant milestone by determining the first active-state structure of kappa opioid receptor. Additionally, his research shed light on the intricate mechanisms of ligand selectivity and functional selectivity, pivotal for understanding opioid receptor dynamics. 

Additionally, Che is a distinguished faculty member at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology within the department. His research aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms of opioid receptor signaling in order to gain an atomic-level understanding of opioid receptor activation, and to use this information to develop chemical and synthetic biologic tools. His groundbreaking work, particularly on the kappa opioid receptor, has earned recognition through publications in prestigious journals such as Cell, Science, and Nature.

The Early Career Award will be presented by the Division for Molecular Pharmacology on Saturday, May 18, 2024, during the ASPET 2024 Annual Meeting in Arlington, Va. Che will also present a lecture titled “Untangling the Complexity of Opioid Receptor Signaling,” showcasing his groundbreaking work as a highlight of the annual meeting. 

Learn more about ASPET, the award, and the annual meeting on the ASPET website.