A Monash University researcher who's work focuses on the development of more targeted drugs with fewer side effects has become the first Australian to be awarded the prestigious John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).


Professor Arthur Christopoulos, from Monash University's Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MPS) took out the award, which recognises researchers aged under 45 for their exceptional contribution to the field of pharmacological studies.


The award recognised Professor Christopoulos' investigations of alternative drug recognition sites on G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) - the largest and most important family of receptor proteins in the human body. 

GPCRs play a role in virtually every biological process and most diseases, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, neuropsychiatric disorders, inflammation and cancers. Almost half the current medications available use GPCRs to achieve their therapeutic effect.

Monash Provost and Senior Vice-President Professor Edwina Cornish congratulated Professor Christopoulos. 

"Arthur is making significant and promising discoveries in the search for new, targeted therapies. This prestigious award is an indicator of the importance of his research in bettering the health of the wider community," Professor Cornish said. 

Professor Christopoulos investigates allosteric sites on GPCRs, which have, traditionally, been largely ignored in drug development. By focusing on these sites, it is possible to develop drugs that are more targeted, avoiding what he calls "blunt hammer" treatments. 

"Drugs that act on the protein region used by the body’s endogenous hormones or neurochemicals will likely have a similar action in any part of the body where the protein region exists. So a treatment for the heart will likely have an effect on the brain, or liver also, if the same hormone or neurochemical - and hence its binding region - is found in those organs," Professor Christopoulos said.