Richard B. Silverman, the Patrick G. Ryan/Aon Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University and Penn State alumnus, will present the Harold Kohn Endowed Distinguished Chemistry Alumni Lecture at 2:30pm on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, on the Verne M. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences on the third-floor bridge connecting the Huck Life Sciences and Chemistry Buildings Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The lecture, titled “Inhibition of Protein Aggregation and the Development of NU-9 for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases,” is free and open to the public.
Penn State alumnus Harold Kohn endowed this lectureship to bring distinguished Penn State alumni to honor and celebrate their contributions, develop broad interests in the chemical sciences, and provide opportunities for student and faculty engagement.
Silverman’s lecture will focus on his group’s research of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and recently identified classes of compounds that inhibit protein aggregation (i.e., accumulation or clumping together) and extend the life of the ALS mouse model; one of these compounds being NU-9. While there is no effective cure for ALS, the Silverman group works to interrogate the effectiveness of compounds to improve the health of the upper motor neurons in mouse models, which is anticipated to translate to patient efficacy. Preclinical results with NU-9 toward the treatment of ALS and Alzheimer’s disease will be presented.
The Silverman group primarily studies medicinal and bioorganic chemistry, mechanisms of drug action, design of medicinal agents, specific enzyme inactivation, and enzyme mechanisms and models. Silverman is also known for inventing the drug Pregabalin (brand name Lyrica), which is typically used as a possible treatment for epileptic seizures. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 and then marketed by Pfizer.
Silverman was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2023 and holds professional memberships with American Chemical Society (ACS), American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, the National Academy of Inventors, and more. His research accomplishments have been recognized with many awards including the Abeles and Jencks Award for the Chemistry of Biological Processes from the ACS Division of Biological Sciences in 2024, the Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry from Elsevier's Tetrahedron journal series in 2021, the ACS Award for Creative Invention in 2017, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Penn State in 2017, the Centenary Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2013, the Perkin Medal from the American section of the Society of Chemical Industry in 2009, and the Penn State Alumni Fellow Award in 2008.
Silverman joined the chemistry faculty at Northwestern in 1976 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982, to professor in 1986, and named the inaugural Patrick G. Ryan/Aon Professor in 2015. Before this, he was a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at Brandeis University. Silverman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Penn State in 1968 and a doctoral degree in organic chemistry at Harvard University in 1974.