September 27, 2002

Oates confesses life work at symposium

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Oates confesses life work at symposium

The second annual John A. Oates Symposium in Experimental Therapeutics ended with a confession.

“At one point, drug transport was my scientific mistress,” Oates remarked at the conclusion of a day of presentations on the topic of transporter biology and drug response. Oates, Thomas F. Frist Professor of Medicine and professor of Pharmacology, went on to describe a clinical observation that sent him in search of the explanation for how one drug could block the activity of another. It boiled down to the action of a transporter — a molecule that moves drugs and other molecules across the cell membrane.

Transporters and how they work were the focus of the symposium that honors Oates and focuses on research aimed at discovering why individuals differ in their responses to medications.

Oates founded the division of Clinical Pharmacology, now one of the largest in the country and a center of excellence for the study of individual variability in response to drugs, said Dr. Richard B. Kim, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and a symposium organizer.

“Dr. Oates is one of the founding fathers of the discipline of clinical pharmacology, and he’s a terrific role model,” Kim said.

Speakers at the symposium included Kim, Debbie Nickerson, Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Omar L. Francone, Ph.D. from Pfizer, David D. Moore, Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, Erin G. Schuetz, Ph.D. from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D., Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and director of the Center for Molecular Neuroscience at Vanderbilt.

In welcoming remarks, Dr. Dan M. Roden, William Stokes Chair in Experimental Therapeutics and director of the division of Clinical Pharmacology, said that the goal of the symposium was to discuss a cutting-edge area within the broad field of research devoted to understanding the relationship between drugs and variable drug action. Ten years ago, he said, the topic of drug transporters wouldn’t even have been considered for such a symposium.

“The area of drug transporters has seen a huge increase, in terms of understanding the caste of players and what they do,” Roden said. “And I would submit that Vanderbilt is a leader in that field.”

Oates is one of the reasons, Roden said.

Oates expressed optimism about experimental therapeutics — the effort to understand human disease and drug therapy, particularly the variation in response to drug therapy.

“Our transporter studies began because of a patient who suffered a severe drug interaction,” Oates said. “Today’s symposium highlights the attractive prospect that we can predict the basis for interindividual variation in drug effects in people, without having to wait until patients suffer the ill effects of these variations.”