Chemistry department to host annual Probst lecture Feb. 23

It’s not every day the opportunity to meet an inventor of a popular nerve treatment medication presents itself.

Dr. Richard Silverman, the inventor of the nerve treatment drug Lyrica is the 2016 Probst Lecture featured speaker. (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Richard Silverman, the inventor of the nerve treatment medication Lyrica is the 2016 Probst Lecture featured speaker. (Courtesy Photo)

SIUE Chemistry students will soon have the opportunity when Chemistry Department welcomes Dr. Richard Silverman of Northwestern University at its 40th annual William J. Probst lecture Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Meridian Ballroom of the Morris University Center. The lecture is sponsored by Chem-Club with funding from Student Government.

Silverman’s research has been published in numerous academic journals and has received several awards including the 2014 iCON Innovator Award.  The professor invented the drug pregabalin, known as Lyrica, which is used to treat such ailments as fibromyalgia and other nerve and muscle pain. Silverman earned his PhD. At Harvard University.

Silverman’s speech, titled “Drug Ingenuity or Serendipity?” will discuss intentional drug design and trial by varation said SIUE Chemistry professor Leah O’Brien. About 700 people including alumni, faculty and current students are expected to attend the lecture.

“I think they will learn about current topics in chemistry,” O’Brien said. “We teach about synthesis and we teach about atoms and moles, but here’s a guy who tells a story of inventing a drug. And it’s not just by accident, you have to find receptors and you have find likely structures so that it will bond in the right place … Rational drug design is really important. And he’s the one who developed Lyrica which is a billion dollar a year drug and he did this intentionally … It’s what we call rational drug design. I think they get to see a very different perspective of what a successful chemist has done rather than what is introductory level material. So this is really what (students) could be doing later.”

In addition to the Probst Lecture on Tuesday evening, Dr. Silverman will present a lecture on Wednesday Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. in the Dunham Hall Theater where the professor will discuss his current research. This lecture will be an intensive lecture that will be geared toward Chemistry majors.

“That will be about the reactions he’s doing, really high tech chemistry synthesis,” O’Brien said. “How do you use the tools from organic chemistry and build the reactions themselves. What you call fundamental chemistry.”

To coincide with the Probst lecture, the Chemistry department will also be hosting an afternoon symposium where Chemistry students will present findings from their research projects. Dr. Silverman will be attend to provide feedback and answer student’s questions.

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