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Pharmacology society honors Limbird’s impact

Jan. 24, 2013, 10:40 AM

Vanderbilt University’s Lee Limbird, Ph.D., has received one of pharmacology’s highest honors — the 2013 Julius Axelrod Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).

Lee Limbird, Ph.D.

The award, which recognizes outstanding scientific contributions in research and mentoring in pharmacology, will be presented April 20 during the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston.

Limbird, former chair of Pharmacology and former associate vice chancellor for Research at Vanderbilt, currently is professor of Biochemistry and dean of the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Business at Fisk University.

She is known for her pioneering research on alpha-2 adrenergic receptors and how they relate to the regulation of blood pressure, sedation, pain suppression and opioid drug action.

Limbird also is credited with guiding Vanderbilt’s Department of Pharmacology to become of one of the top pharmacology departments in the country. Her devotion to mentoring graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and young faculty is “legendary,” ASPET officials said in announcing her award.

“I have had many personal and professional blessings in my life, and those include having had mentors and faculty colleagues at Duke and Vanderbilt who were unswerving in their constructive feedback to me, and having trainees in my lab and in the environment whose joy for science was a continuing source of inspiration,” Limbird said.

“I cannot think of anyone who is more deserving as a recipient of the ASPET Axelrod Award than is Dr. Limbird,” said P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

“She is a pioneer and world leader in our understanding of receptor signaling,” said Conn, the Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology. “She has also dedicated uncommon energy throughout her career to mentoring of young scientists.”

“Lee is a remarkable person whose intellectual courage and drive have influenced students and faculty alike, no one more so I think than myself,” said Randy Blakely, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt/National Institute of Mental Health Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research.

“She recruited me to Vanderbilt and, more than any other facet of the University, was the reason I came,” said Blakely, Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry, and winner of the 2008 Axelrod Award.

Limbird has served on numerous National Institutes of Health (NIH) review committees, authored a widely used textbook on cell surface receptors and co-edited the 10th edition of Goodman and Gilman’s “Pharmacological Basis for Therapeutics.”

Among many awards, she has received ASPET’s John Jacob Abel Award for young investigators and the Goodman and Gilman Award for Receptor Pharmacology.

A graduate of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, Limbird earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina.

At Duke University in the 1970s, she was the first postdoctoral fellow to be mentored by Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., who shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Brian Kobilka, M.D., for their studies of G protein-coupled receptors.

Two other Vanderbilt faculty members won the Axelrod Award: Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., in 2011, and the late Sydney Spector, Ph.D., in 1998.

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