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Ramos-Gonzalez Awarded PhRMA Foundation Fellowship for Research on Developing Safer Painkillers

Nokomis Ramos-Gonzalez, PhD, a postdoctoral trainee in the Majumdar Lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, recently received a 2024 PhRMA Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Drug Discovery. Her research focuses on examining the structure and pharmacology of opioid receptors, aiming to develop new painkillers with fewer negative side effects.

“I’m interested in pain management because one in five Americans suffers from chronic pain,” Ramos-Gonzalez said. “Currently, the most effective analgesics or painkillers are prescribed opioids. However, the US is facing an opioid epidemic, highlighting the urgent need for better pain management solutions.”

All known opioids prescribed for pain, such as morphine or fentanyl, target a receptor called the mu opioid receptor. Ramos-Gonzalez is exploring a solution that allows painkillers to operate on the kappa opioid receptor instead. Her goal is to develop a drug that activates specific pathways for pain relief while minimizing side effects.

“I am currently designing and looking at the pharmacology of new kappa opioid receptor drugs that activate specific pathways over others, and do so with less efficacy, to stimulate the kappa opioid receptor more gently,” Ramos-Gonzalez explained.

This Postdoctoral Fellowship will enable Ramos-Gonzalez to advance her research in the Majumdar Lab by providing funding to continue her work on developing an effective painkiller to combat the opioid epidemic and save lives.

Ramos-Gonzalez recently participated in a Q&A session with the PhRMA Foundation, where she discussed her research and its potential impact in greater detail. Watch the video below to learn more:

Video courtesy of PhRMA Foundation.