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Opioid Receptor Trailblazer

As a protégé of Solomon Snyder, who discovered the brain’s opioid receptors and founded what now is the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, pharmacologist Gavril Pasternak ’73 seemed a natural to become an award-winning—and tireless—trailblazer in such brain research.

Even throughout the eight years during which he quietly battled pancreatic cancer, Pasternak kept his 15-member laboratory at the Sloan Kettering Institute humming with research into the molecular mechanisms of opioid action.

He was acclaimed for developing a class of analgesics more potent than morphine but free from the negative side effects and potential for abuse associated with traditional opioids. Indeed, shortly before Pasternak’s death last Feb. 22 at the age of 71, he had obtained a $13 million National Institutes of Health grant and was in the process of launching a pharmaceutical company.

Reuven Pasternak (HS; fellow, anesthesiology and critical care medicine, 1982–85), former vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, says the work of his older brother’s laboratory will continue.

Opioid Receptor Trailblazer